What so funny ‘bout peace, love and understanding, Mr. MacManus? Well, a lot according to actor/director Christopher Guest and his ensemble cast of regulars in their new feature A Mighty Wind. Shot in a sort of skewed cinema verité (of course) the story follows three defunct folk groups reunited after the death of their magnate and mentor Irving Steinbloom, who snatched up the syrupy acts in the late 60’s/early 70’s like a folk rock Berry Gordy.
On the bill at the Carnegie Hall-type venue are the New Main Street Singers (led by Todd Lieberman), the Folksmen (the trio Spinal Tap: Michael McKean, Harry Shearer and Guest), and the long-feuding couple Mitch and Mickey (Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara). As the show builds, we’re introduced to the usual swarm of publicists, managers and television execs, all played by faces familiar to those who’ve seen Guest’s previous pics Best in Show and Waiting for Guffman.
Inevitably, a few predictable jokes fall flat, but several inspired performances shine through, specifically from Shearer, Jennifer Coolidge, Catherine O’Hara and (one of the funniest human beings on this planet) Eugene Levy. Just the sight of Fred Willard in a white suit and spiky blonde hair is funnier than anything else I’ve seen all year.
Plus, the pot shots at folk culture are especially enjoyable for those of us who grew up with the dippy stylings of acts like Peter, Paul and Mary. (Okay, I saw one of their several million reunion tours…twice…but that’s not important right now).
While it doesn’t quite hit the climatic mark of its predecessors, Wind has its share of breezy moments that make the film well worth your 6 to 10 bucks.
Leave it to Lord Haden-Guest to take a banjo all the way to 11.