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"A witty, knee slapping hootenanny."
"The film evolves from being a character comedy...into one that is more melodramatic."
"An enjoyable, laughable treat."
A Mighty Wind  

Cast

Mark Shubb: Christopher Guest
Jerry Palter: Michael McKean
Mike LaFontaine: Fred Willard
Mickey: Catherine O'Hara
Mitch: Eugene Levy
Steinbloom: Bob Balaban
Sissy Knox: Parker Posey
Lars: Ed Begley Jr.
Alan Burrows: Harry Shearer
Review April 2003

From the makers of "Waiting for Guffman" and "Best in Show" comes "A Mighty Wind," a film that rekindles the spirit of the '60s folk rock boom and details the rise and fall of three noteworthy groups and their attempts to reunite years later for one, final memorial concert. With original music and outrageous character comedy, "A Mighty Wind" is a witty, knee slapping hootenanny - one that is sure to tickle your funny bone?at least, for a little while.

The film opens with the passing of folk icon, Irving Steinbloom, manager of such acts as "The Folksmen," "The Main Street Singers," and "Mitch and Mickey." In honor of his death, Steinbloom's son Jonathan decides that the only fitting tribute is to host a memorial concert. It will be a celebration of the music that his father was fond of and nurtured. To do this, Jonathan enlists the help of Mike LaFontaine (Willard) of High Class Management, Lars Olfen (Begley Jr.) of the local public broadcasting network, ad execs Wally Fenton and Amber Cole of The Zipken Group, and Lawrence F. Turpin, events liaison, of New York's Town Hall.

The concert reunites the groups back together and provides insight into their formation, history, and current lives. After a successful string of hits such as "Hitchin'," "Singin'," "Ramblin'," "Wishin'," and "Pickin'," The Folksmen left the folk scene after an experimental electric album went south. Following a chance "accidental" meeting, Mitch and Mickey became folk music's darlings with their hit song "Kiss at the end of the Rainbow" that provided a pause in the middle where the two kissed. However, their sudden break up put Mitch into a deep depression for which he has never fully recovered. Lastly, The Main Street Singers were a unique "neuftet" that survived a successful re-incarnation by LaFontaine as The New Main Street Singers. Led by Terry and Laurie Bohner, an unusually spirited couple, the prolific group continues to thrive.

As preparation for the concert is underway, all sorts of anxieties and feelings arise. Mitch awkwardly reconnects with Mickey and her husband, The Folksmen fondly reminisce amidst a distaste for the popular New Main Street Singers, and speaking of the Singers, they rehearse joyfully while initiating a skeptical new member. But when the curtain rises, nearly everything goes off without a hitch - except for the show's final act. With Mickey on walkabout, the show must go on. But will the audience be able to survive Mark Shubb's historical recount of the Spanish Civil War? Or will Mitch return in time to save the day?

"A Mighty Wind" is a musical satire a la "This Is Spinal Tap." In fact, all original members of "Spinal Tap" comprise the group, The Folksmen: Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, and Harry Shearer. In real life, all three have been in rock groups in the early '60's and all three wrote the majority of the songs on the soundtrack. I mean, who could forget the timeless, "Old Joe's Place?" From heavy metal to folk rock, this is another tongue and cheek look into the absurdity of the music business. And like "Spinal Tap," much is the same: the disagreements at rehearsals, the screwups on stage, and even the possibility that one of the groups might get lost en route to the show. But despite the similarities, I still laughed hysterically when these 'serious' musicians talked on a variety of topics: The Folksmen discussing the missing hole in their albums, Terry and Laurie Bohner talking about their spiritual faith in "Witches of Nature's Colors," and Mitch and Mickey detailing their accidental first meeting.

Bob Balaban, who plays Jonathan Steinbloom, is wonderful as the bumbling, good natured son and Fred Willard returns to play the outrageous Mike LaFontaine, a promoter with bathroom humor and offbeat jokes that only he can laugh at. Even Ed Begley, Jr. gets in the act as a Norwegian public broadcasting exec with a folk hit of his own. Yet, zany characters are not enough to keep the film afloat and from turning into something else.

The downside of this film is that unlike Guest's previous work "Best in Show," the film evolves from being a character comedy, with improvisational routines and skits, into one that is more melodramatic. Most notably, the situation with Mitch and Mickey dominates the film and becomes tainted with sincerity. Mitch's depression and anxiety about reuniting with Mickey become real and less comedic. And instead of laughing at him or with him, you feel sorry for him.

Nevertheless, "A Mighty Wind" is an enjoyable, laughable treat. Throughout the first three quarters of this movie, you'll laugh and chuckle. But in the end, the film loses steam as a comedy and winds up playing out like a concert on PBS. In the end, the story becomes less of a mighty wind and much closer to a comfortable breeze.




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