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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Christopher Guest
Cast:
Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Harry Shearer, Parker Posey, Fred Willard, Ed Begley Jr.
Writing Credits:
Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy

Tagline:
Back together for the first time, again.

Synopsis:
Christopher Guest follows up his acclaimed ensemble comedies Best In Show and Waiting For Guffman with a docu-comedy about three folk groups from the 60s who reunite for a memorial concert in New York City following the death of a legendary folk manager.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$2.112 million on 133 screens.
Domestic Gross
$17.508 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 92 min.
Price: $27.95
Release Date: 9/23/2003

Bonus:
• Audio commentary from Writer/Director/Actor Christopher Guest and Writer/Actor Eugene Levy
• Deleted Scenes With Audio Commentary
• TV Appearances With Audio Commentary
• PBN Broadcast of the Concert With Audio Commentary
• “The Bands” Text
• Theatrical Trailer
• Cast & Crew
• Soundtrack Spot
• Easter Eggs


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RELATED REVIEWS


A Mighty Wind (2003)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 25, 2003)

20 years after the seminal This Is Spinal Tap hit screens, Tap member Christopher Guest again turned his “mockumentary” eye on the musical genre with A Mighty Wind. Would his spoof of the folk music field live up to the skewering of rock in Tap? No, and the only sporadically entertaining Wind also falls short of Guest’s other flicks in the genre.

Wind opens with a news report about the death of folk record mogul Irving Steinbloom. His son Jonathan (Bob Balaban) wants to put on tribute show in two weeks at Town Hall in New York. We also meet his siblings Elliott (Don Lake) and Naomi (Deborah Theaker), but Jonathan runs the show.

Essentially Wind follows the path to the concert. After this quick set-up, we get to know a little about the three old folk acts who will appear on the bill. A trio called the Folksmen includes Jerry Palter (Michael McKean), Mark Shubb (Harry Shearer), and Allan Barrows (Guest). They’ve not played together in years but seem happy to see each other again and dust off the old songs.

On the other hand, the New Main Street Singers remain an ongoing band. We encounter founder George Menschell (Paul Dooley) as well as current leaders Terry and Laurie Bohner (John Michael Higgins and Jane Lynch). Some of the others don’t respect the Singers because they’re light and poppy folk and not as earnest and “real” as the others. The Bohners also seem a little odd due to their unusual spiritual beliefs related to color.

Finally, Mitch and Mickey provide the most complicated situation of the three acts. A romantic duo in the Sixties, they split acrimoniously, an action that sent Mitch (Eugene Levy) into a deep psychological downward spiral. Mickey (Catherine O’Hara) went on the marry Leonard Crabbe (Jim Piddick) and leave the business, so her moments with the emotionally fragile and plain old odd Mitch are fraught with tension as well as a few hints of their old love.

We watch as the three acts prepare for the show and also get to know some of the folks involved in other ways. Scandinavian Lars Olfen (Ed Begley Jr.) will produce the TV show, while Lawrence E. Turpin (Michael Hitchcok) manages the venue. He has to deal with Jonathan’s insanely anal tendencies to get the production mounted. We also meet the loud and broadly comic manager of the Singers, Mike LaFontaine (Fred Willard). A former TV actor, he clings desperately to his old semi-glory.

All of this builds to the climactic concert, and the Mitch & Mickey subplot takes priority. Really, it provides the film’s only moments of tension, as we’re never quite sure what Mickey will do. We see what happens and follow the acts through the end of the show and beyond.

Wind marks Guest’s fourth film in this genre, and his third as a director. While Rob Reiner helmed Tap, Guest led 1997’s Waiting For Guffman as well as 2000’s Best in Show. Though I thought Guffman seemed a little erratic, Wind definitely comes as the weakest of the four.

All four of the “mockumentaries” on which Guest has worked took on fairly easy targets. It doesn’t require much to spoof the worlds of heavy metal rock, dog shows, small town theater productions or folk music; all three inherently parody themselves to a certain degree. One reason why the two best films of the four were so successful stemmed from the feeling that they were affectionate looks at the material; I never thought that Tap or Show felt mean-spirited or condescending. Guffman altered that and felt like the nastiest of the bunch.

Wind doesn’t go down that path. Indeed, it may go too far in the other direction. Often it barely feels like a parody. Whereas the songs in Tap were broad and absurd takes on metal, virtually everything in Wind sounds like actual folk music. Sure, the title tune includes gently punning lines like “it’s blowing you and me”, but very little humor emanates from the vast majority of the tracks.

It’s odd to criticize the songs of Wind for being too good, but that’s indeed the case. Though I don’t care for folk music, a few of the tracks actually seem fairly memorable. The M&M numbers are easily the best, probably because the movie tries hardest not to play that duo for laughs. Mitch & Mickey provide the movie’s emotional center, which seems a little weird since Mitch himself is the flick’s most vulnerable target for comedy. Others go for the broad laughs – especially the loud LaFontaine – but none of them are quite as strange or affected as Mitch.

The movie takes its cues from the M&M relationship, which means it lacks much of the incisive humor seen in the other flicks. The film can only veer so far away from the emotion of M&M, and that mutes the humor seen in the other characters. It doesn’t help that the various personalities often don’t do much to stand out from each other. The three guys in the Folksmen display almost no depth, perhaps because Guest feared the de facto reunion of Spinal Tap actors would overwhelm the rest of the flick; perhaps he felt the need to diminish those roles to stave off heavier comparisons.

Unfortunately, it simply diminishes those parts of the film. As our main representatives of the Singers, the Bohners make a better impact, especially because of the wonderfully self-assured performance from Lynch, the folkie with the sordid past. However, while these characters do stand out somewhat, a few attempts to make that happen feel contrived. The whole glimpses of the Bohners’ odd spiritual beliefs seems like nothing more than a random stab at something unusual without any sense of integration into the characters or the film as a whole.

Though Mitch & Mickey take the movie’s center, the personalities themselves don’t seem much better realized. The characters benefit from the long relationship between O’Hara and Levy, two performers who’ve worked together on and off for nearly 30 years. That connection comes through and helps create a believability about the M&M relationship. Otherwise, however, we really don’t get a feel for what makes them tick, and they seem thin.

It seems weird to knock the movie because it gave its main roles added emotion, but the problems occur because it doesn’t quite go all the way. For example, during a climactic moment at the concert, the film’s big emotional moment immediately becomes undercut with a gag. It feels like Guest wanted to make something more serious than his prior efforts but worried he might alienate his core audience.

Surprisingly, the supporting roles prove to be the most interesting, perhaps because Guest felt less need to make them feel real. Fred Willard stole Best In Show and he does so again here with his wonderfully obnoxious and desperate performance as LaFontaine. Most of the movie’s jokes elicit a chuckle or a smile, but Willard brings out the guffaws. He tears up every scene in which he appears and makes his moments absolutely hilarious. The interaction between Balaban and Hitchcock also merits attention, especially as the latter gets more and more irritated with the former’s obsessiveness.

Although many of my comments about A Mighty Wind have been negative, I don’t want to give the impression that I disliked the film. Wind is consistently entertaining and enjoyable. Mainly it suffers in comparison with Chris Guest’s prior efforts, as it definitely doesn’t live up to his standards. If you go in without such expectations, Wind works best.


The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B/ Bonus B+

A Mighty Wind appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. If you saw the DVDs for either of Guest’s prior “mockumentaries”, you’ll know what to expect here, for Wind looked almost exactly the same.

Overall, the movie presented a reasonably concise and distinct picture. Sometimes the image lacked great precision and definition, usually during wider shots. Still, the flick usually was detailed and sharp. I saw no problems connected to jagged edges or moiré effects, but a little light edge enhancement showed up at times. Print flaws demonstrated occasional examples of specks or grit, neither of which were major. The faux archival footage demonstrated more substantial defects, but those clearly were intentional to “date” the clips. The image looked moderately grainy at times, but as with prior Guest flicks, that came from the source material and didn’t result as a problem with the DVD’s transfer.

. The film displayed decent but unexceptional colors. At times, the tones came across as somewhat muddy and less than concise. Most of the movie seemed to demonstrate reasonably tight and vibrant hues, but not always. Black levels showed no concerns, though, as those elements were deep and rich. Shadows came across as well depicted too, as the rare low-light shots seemed accurate. Ultimately, what you shoot it what you get, and the DVD of A Mighty Wind felt like it replicated the source footage fairly well.

More déjà vu occurred with the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of A Mighty Wind, for it provided a rather low-key affair ala prior Guest films. The forward soundstage heavily dominated the proceedings. Surround usage mainly featured applause during the concert performance. The assembly of the stage also placed some worker activity in the rear speakers, but otherwise I noticed no unique audio from those channels. Music usually presented nice stereo delineation in the front, especially during the concert. That part of the film even added good directional dialogue when the Folksmen spoke. Effects also popped up from the sides with moderate frequency, and some decent panning occurred as well. Nonetheless, the soundfield lacked ambition and seemed very unassuming.

Audio quality fared well. Speech came across as natural and distinctive. No issues connected to intelligibility or edginess showed up, and that seemed especially important given the talky nature of the flick. Of course, music also played an important role, and the mix replicated the songs nicely. They seemed well-recorded and concise, with clean highs and rich lows. Bass response remained warm and taut throughout the film. Effects were the smallest element of the track, but they remained accurate and without flaws. Due to its minimalist nature, I didn’t think A Mighty Wind merited a grade above a “B” for audio, but the soundtrack suited the material.

Chris Guest fans will also experience some déjà vu when they examine this DVD’s extras, as we find features similar to those of past discs. That means we start with an audio commentary from director/co-writer/actor Guest and co-writer/actor Eugene Levy. Both sit together for their running, screen-specific chat. Those who listened to their tracks for prior films will know what to expect here, though their discussion of Wind seems superior to earlier pieces.

Mostly the commentary covers general production notes such as locations, various challenges, the development of the characters and situations, and attribution of various elements. We learn a smidgen about what inspired the film, but mostly the pair just offer tidbits about the flick as a whole. As usual, a fair number of gaps appear, and those who expect a lot of humor won’t get what they want; Guest and Levy provide a bit of dry wit but it’s not exactly a laughfest. Still, the track seems reasonably interesting, at least compared to the commentaries for Guffman and Best In Show.

Up next we get a collection of 15 additional scenes. These run a total of 22 minutes and 25 seconds and mostly feature new material. A few add to existing scenes, but not many, and we find three songs not found in the final flick. Don’t expect comic gold here, as the clips come across as only moderately entertaining at best. More commentary from Guest and Levy accompanies these bits. Long gaps prevail and they tell us only a little information, with the most interesting element related to notes about Paul Dooley’s character.

In the TV Appearances domain, we get four clips that partially comprise the faux archival material briefly witnessed in the film. Totaling nine minutes and 24 seconds, two pieces come from the Folksmen and two are from Mitch & Mickey. You’ll readily recognize the versions of “Old Joe’s Place” and “A Kiss At the End of the Rainbow” from the movie, but “In the Groove” or the “dramatic” guest spot from Mitch & Mickey on Dick Beyman – Private Eye didn’t make the final flick. All of these are fun, but the latter’s the most interesting. Additional commentary accompanies these snippets; the usual empty spots dominate, and we don’t get much useful information about the pieces.

Similar footage shows up in the PBN TV Broadcast of the Concert. This 22-minute and 45-second section presents all six songs seen in the film. Interestingly, this presents them as videotaped and doesn’t just show unaltered clips from the movie. Actually, most of them offer takes different from those in the finished movie, which makes the show even more useful. Oddly, it cuts out all of Jonathan’s introductions. It’s a cool extra that lets us see the performances in their entirety.

Yup, we get more commentary from Guest and Levy here. This track is probably the most compelling of the ones that go along with extras. The pair let us know the ins and outs of this special shoot and educate us about the differences.

The Bands adds some text material. This area includes short “biographies” of the Folksmen, the New Main Street Singers, and Mitch & Mickey. The movie already presents most of this information, but it’s not a bad place to locate it concisely.

A few minor extras show up next. We get the movie’s theatrical trailer as well as a Cast & Crew area. As with most WB DVDs, the latter just lists names and includes no actual information about the participants. The soundtrack spot offers a 35-second TV ad for the movie’s album.

A surprisingly robust collection of Easter eggs rounds out the disc. If you highlight “commentary” and click to the right, you’ll light up a guitar string. Hit “enter” and you’ll gain access to a few hidden bits. “Crew Pounds Hotel Wall” lasts 35 seconds as it shows how they shook up Mitch’s room. “Practice Shoot with Editors” runs 45 seconds and presents the crew as the do a dry run of a scene to synch it up later. Both are fun to see, and they even come with commentary from Guest and Levy who briefly explain them.

Finally, the Easter egg area gives us two “Newspaper Articles”. We briefly see shots of “Folk Musician Pummeled” and “Wha’ Happened Dumped” during the movie, but here we can actually read the text. It’s very cool to get this.

A gentle skewering of the folk music scene, A Mighty Wind doesn’t quite fire on all cylinders. The movie seems generally likable and amusing, but it falls short of the heights achieved by those involved in their previous movies. The DVD presents decent but unexceptional picture and sound along with a pretty good package of extras. I like Wind enough to recommend this DVD, but it remains a moderately disappointing flick.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.0434 Stars Number of Votes: 23
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