This Is Spinal Tap

April 18, 2010
What's an easier subject to lampoon than hair metal? The ideas behind the subgenre alone are quite ridiculous, if enough thought is given to the subject matter. In order to be a 'hair metal' band, one must meet the following attributes: 2/3rd of songs should be about sex, irrelevant references to mythology one's not familiar with should be made, one must have crazy smoke-and-fire stage shows, etc. and so forth. With items these ridiculous, it's no wonder that Rob Reiner was inspired to help create the fictional band of Spinal Tap.

In the film, we follow a washed-up British hair metal band known as Spinal Tap, which is currently attempting to boost itself back into the mainstream with a plethora of ideas - including the filming of this 'documentary'. Starting with a tour of the U.S., the main band members - Nigel, David and Derek - talk about their influences (such as the almighty Stonehenge) as their careers slowly begin to sink even further downwards.

What really brings this film together is how witty and intelligent its humor is. From its more well-known scenes to its underrated gems, the film's sharp sense of humor is so biting that it can appear to be dead-pan serious at times because of how subtle everything seems to be. In fact, I had to watch the film a second time just in order to understand those instances of humor that just went over my head. It's well worth it, though, as these characters are absolutely funny to listen to.

Speaking of which, the characters are just an absolute treat in this film. They're just so likable, even when they're at their stupidest. From discussions on sandwich sizes to the deaths of their 32 individual drummers, the decision to let these characters be themselves via improv just makes them all the more interesting and fun to watch.

However, I do think the film fails when it comes to scripted comedy. The visuals gags, such as the band getting lost on the way to a stage or getting stuck inside a prop, really aren't all that funny. It may warrant a chuckle or two, but it's nowhere near on the level of these characters' dialogue. Even then, there are some moments where the improv dialogue just gets sort of stale, such as when the band's manager is discussing the misogynistic cover of one of Spinal Tap's albums.

Also, I know that the film was trying to poke fun at rock documentaries as well, but the "serious" events of This Is Spinal Tap really feel quite forced. For instance, when Ian (the manager) quits, the whole moment felt more awkward than funny. It just didn't really mean anything, save for an emotional comeback during the ending, and it feels out of place with the tone of the rest of the film. I, personally, would have been quite content without it.

It does have its letdowns, but the overall wit outweighs any of the stale or forced-feeling comedy. Another interesting thing to note is that, during this film's re-release in 2000, the actors took up their comedic roles again for the film's in-character commentary on the film. After checking it out first-hand, I can say that the commentary is just as funny, if not even more so, than the original film. Plenty of running gags, hilarious comments, and the fact that the characters(or the actors) can actually poke fun at the film's flaws makes the commentary so worthwhile - I highly recommend checking it out.

Witty humor, hilarious characters, and chock-full of quotes, This Is Spinal Tap is a great comedy that serves as a sort of affectionate parody of the hair metal bands of old, such as Whitesnake. The humor can get a bit stale at times, and can even feel forced, but the film's pros outweigh its cons.

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Falcore said...
May 6, 2010 at 6:57 pm
oh yeah and one thing I forgot, the discussing of the album cover is one of the most famous lies from the movie, when he talks about how the album can't get any blacker, hilarious, not stale in my opinion
Falcore said...
May 6, 2010 at 6:55 pm
I love this movie, its probably one of my all time favorites. Nice review 
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