Saturday, March 19, 2016

Looking at Movies (Classic Film) - This is Spinal Tap (1984)

This coming week we will start posting movie reviews on Monday, which is something you all are hopefully used to. But my partner had a special request for a classic movie review, and I was more than happy to accommodate.

This is Spinal Tap is one of the top three funniest movies ever made, in my opinion. It is a perfect mix of satire, parody, tomfoolery, and exploitation. The deep underlying inspiration for This is Spinal Tap is something many people under the age of 40 will not understand. But if you experienced the global music scene in the 1970s and 1980s first hand, then you know exactly where this movie comes from.

Let me just shatter a myth for many people by telling you that all of the members of Spinal Tap are Americans. There is also a very good chance that you have seen their work in other areas. Christopher Guest plays Nigel Tufnel, and he is a Saturday Night Live alumni as well as appearing in several other comedies. David St. Hubbins is played by Michael McKean, and you have seen him in the Brady Bunch movies and on old television shows such as Laverne and Shirley. Harry Shearer plays bass player Derek Smalls, and you have seen Shearer in the Wayne's World movies and you have heard his voice on the Simpsons.

These men are also accomplished comedians with their own successful histories, and that is one of the things that makes this movie so special. With the exception of the retro band performance segments, a large majority of this movie was ad-libbed by the cast. There are also hours of deleted scenes that appear on the Blu-Ray that are just as funny as the rest of the movie. At the time the movie was released, no one would go see a four hour Spinal Tap movie. These days, people would stand in line to see that.

There was an obvious chemistry between the cast members, and that made it easy for those guys to capitalize on the magical moments that can occur when comedic geniuses start going off on an idea. If you watch the scene where the band members are at Elvis' grave, you can see Shearer start to crack up. The guys knew they had nothing to lose and everything to gain from making this movie, and it was obvious from the way they performed.

I always give Shearer, Guest, and McKean credit for staying in character throughout the entire movie. I am sure there were plenty of outtakes, but just being able to look like you are taking all of that stupidity seriously was impressive. The movie angered a large segment of the hair metal band population, but there were also a lot of musicians who found the movie funny and also appreciated the professionalism needed to keep a straight face while filming a movie like this.

This is Spinal Tap was the first in a string of offbeat, but very funny, movies that Guest was a part of. He teamed up with his friends from Canada's Second City Television and starred in such funny comedies as Best in Show and brought in Shearer and McKean to do A Mighty Wind. Both of these movies were fun to watch, but they lacked the spontaneity of This is Spinal Tap.

Spinal Tap the band went on to amass a huge cult following and play shows all over the world. I bet that Spinal Tap is out right now looking for a drummer to explode on their next tour. For now, we have the movie to watch and to remind us of what real comedy is supposed to look like and what professional comedians can accomplish.

George N Root III is a move fanatic who loves turning it up to 11 at the drive-in. Follow him on Twitter @georgenroot3 or send him an email at