Friday, November 11, 2011

This is Spinal Tap

In Honor of National Metal Day

Directed by Rob Reiner and written and starring Reiner, Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, and Harry Shearer, This is Spinal Tap is about a filmmaker making a documentary about a heavy metal band going on a U.S. tour as they deal with low record sales due to the lack of interest from the public. Meanwhile, tension starts to emerge as a former flame starts to interfere with the band’s interest causing lots of trouble. The film is a satire of the world of heavy metal as it is considered to be one of the greatest comedies ever made. Also starring June Chadwick and Tony Hendra plus appearances from Fran Drescher, Anjelica Huston, Billy Crystal, Dana Carvey, Bruno Kirby, and Fred Willard. This is Spinal Tap is a witty yet sensational comedy that goes up to 11!

Marty DiBergi (Rob Reiner) is making a documentary one of his favorite bands in the British heavy metal group Spinal Tap led by guitarists/vocalist David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean) and Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest) and bassist Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer). The band, that also includes keyboardist Viv Savage (David Kaff) and drummer Mick Shrimpton (R.J. Parnell), is set to go on an American tour to promote their new album Smell the Glove as they’ve been through many incarnations and different musical genres before settling into the world of heavy metal. Hoping to regain some stature, DiBergi joins them on tour as he also interviews their manager Ian Faith (Tony Hendra) for this tour. Things start to go bad when record executive Bobbi Flekman (Fran Drescher) reveals that retailers won’t sell the new album due to its sexist cover.

Meanwhile, David’s girlfriend Jeanine (June Chadwick) arrives on the tour starts to get involved with band meetings as she starts to manipulate David while DiBergi realizes how problematic the band is Nigel is dim-witted while Derek is trying to get his input into the music. Still, low sales and concert audiences going down bring problems as the band tries to get attention for the tour. Even when the band tries to put a new, all-black cover to the new album, sales don’t help as Nigel suggest staging a performance of their song Stonehenge that becomes a disaster as Jeanine suggests that she should co-manage the band much to the chagrin of Ian who leaves. The new change in management doesn’t help following a bad gig as the band is unsure what to do until they receive some big news that might help their flagging career.

The film is a mockumentary about a band trying to revive their career as a filmmaker follows them on tour trying to see if they can revive their career. Throughout the film, lots of silly mayhem ensues as the band tries to do everything the can to win their audience such as coming out of pods while one of them is stuck inside. In reality, the film doesn’t just poke fun at the world of heavy metal and hard rock but also the rock star in how silly they are such as a scene where Nigel complains about the catering.

The script that Rob Reiner, Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, and Harry Shearer creates is a very loose one as it’s all about a band just trying to make it. Yet, a lot of the dialogue and humor is improvised to give the story a documentary-like feel as if they’re all making it up as they go along with it. Still, the script manages to go into deep about the excessive world of heavy metal from its stage presentation, the showmanship of performance, high-tech equipment, costumes, controversial album covers, pants-stuffing cucumbers, bad reviews, ever-changing drummers, and the music.

The songs that Spinal Tap bring out from the skiffle-based Gimme Some Money and the flower-power anthem Listen to the Flower People show the wide range of humor while metal-driven songs like Sex Farm, Hell Hole, and the very subtle yet bass-driven Big Bottom add a lot to the ridiculousness of hard rock/heavy metal. The songs that are written by the screenwriters are very creative as they all have something to offer as it’s very catchy while not being afraid to be funny for its hilarious lyrics.

Rob Reiner’s direction is wonderful for the fact that it plays like a documentary while always having the camera be engaged by what is going on. There is a verite style to what Reiner goes for as the film feels very loose but also vibrant through the grainy yet lively camera work of cinematographer Peter Smokler. While Reiner has the film focus mainly on Spinal Tap in their quest for a big comeback, he also allows the camera to focus on other people such as a limo driver (Bruno Kirby) who thinks that they’re nothing but a flash in the pan. Reiner always keeps the film going while always making sure that a gag is happening as a lot of the comedy is presented in a straightforward manner. Overall, this is truly a wonderful and downright funny feature-film debut from Rob Reiner.

Editors Kent Beyda and Kim Secrist do a great job with the editing in bringing some wonderful, rhythmic cuts to keep up with the film‘s loose presentation while maintaining a leisured pace for the film. Production designer Bryan Jones does an excellent job with the set pieces created such as the stage show and the record promotion scene where no one shows up for the signing. Sound editor John Brasher does a superb job with the sound to capture the energy of the concerts as well as the intimate moments during the band meetings and interviews.

The casting by Eve Brandstein is definitely the highlight of the film as it features a wonderful array of cameos that truly makes the film extremely memorable. Appearances from Fran Drescher as record executive Bobbi Flekman, Billy Crystal and Dana Carvey as mime waiters, Bruno Kirby as an old-school limo driver, Paul Shaffer as an incompetent promoter, Runaways bassist Vicki Tischler-Blue and as a group, Ed Begley Jr. as the original Spinal Tap drummer, Rough Cutt/Quiet Riot vocalist Paul Shortino as rival rock star Duke Fame, Howard Hesseman as Fame’s manager, Anjelica Huston as the woman who creates the Stonehenge monument for the band, Fred Willard as an Air Force Lt. Col who invites the band to play at the base, and Patrick McNee as a top record executive. Other small roles include David Kaff as band keyboardist Viv Savage and R.J. Parnell as the worrisome drummer Mick Shrimpton. June Chadwick is funny as the astrological-obsessed Jeanine who tries to put her ideas into the band while Tony Hendra is very funny as the take charge manager Ian Faith.

Rob Reiner is wonderful as Marty DiBergi who is the straight man of the entire film as he just plays a filmmaker trying to figure out everything that is going on. Harry Shearer is great as bassist Derek Smalls who is trying to get his input into the band while feeling underappreciated as he tries to pull out his piece Jazz Odyssey. Christopher Guest is funny as the dim-witted but ultra-talented Nigel Tufnel who likes to be a guitar wiz while showing his talents in classical piano with his piece Lick My Love Pump. Michael McKean is superb as David St. Hubbins who tries to maintain control while being distracted by his girlfriend.

This is Spinal Tap is truly one of the funniest films ever made courtesy of Rob Reiner along with cast members Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, and Harry Shearer. It’s a film that definitely keeps on bringing in the laughs while having a good time making fun of the world of heavy metal. Of the films Rob Reiner made in his early filmmaking career, this is definitely one of his best as well as one of the great debut films by any filmmaker. In the end, This is Spinal Tap is an outstanding comedy that definitely goes to 11.

Rob Reiner Films: (The Sure Thing) - (Stand by Me) - The Princess Bride - (When Harry Met Sally…) - (Misery) - (A Few Good Men) - North - (The American President) - (Ghosts of Mississippi) - (The Story of Us) - (Alex & Emma) - (Rumor Has It…) - (The Bucket List) - (Flipped) - (The Magic of Belle Isle)

© thevoid99 2011

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