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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

A Mighty Wind

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Judy Thorburn

"A Mighty Wind" - Blows Lukewarm

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Flick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha Chemplavil

“A MIGHTY WIND” – BLOWS LUKEWARM

Christopher Guest has built a reputation for himself.  Besides being the husband of Jamie Lee Curtis, this writer/director/actor is America’s king of mockumentories. Any film buff knows he was the writer and co-star behind the very successful rock group parody, This is Spinal Tap, which has probably reached cult status.  His most recent take off was on dog shows, the very funny “Best in Show”.  Now, he delves into the folk music era of the sixties, and again brings together some of his best players to create another ensemble piece. But, the result doesn’t quite live up to expectations.

The premise is this. A legendary folk music promoter from the sixties, Irving Steinbloom, has passed away. His son, Jonathan (Bob Balaban) decides the best tribute to his father would be to unite some of his dad’s best folk acts from the past in a reunion concert at New York’s Town Hall, that would be shown live on TV through the Public Broadcast Network. That sets the ball rolling to introduce the

Through present day interviews and old footage from their heyday, a little is learned about the three acts, before the camera follows them about leading up to their stage concert.  First introduced is the Folksmen, a hair challenged trio  (Harry Shearer, Michael McKean, and Guest himself), whose records required the buyer to punch a hole through the center in order to play them. Then, there is the New Main Street Singers (think New Christy Minstrels) led by husband and wife, Terry and Laurie Bohner (John Michael Higgins and Jane Lynch).   Laurie eagerly discusses how she once dabbled in porn (co-starring in “Not So Tiny Tim”), but is now, along with her husband, a devotee to their self found, new age practice, based on “color vibrations”. Her band also includes Sissy Knox (Parker Posey) who became part of the band after her dad, a featured member, died in 1995.  Finally, there is Mitch and Mickey (Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara) the well-loved duo, famous for their signature song ending with a kiss. Although parted for over thirty years -Mickey now married to a catheter salesman, and Mitch newly released from a mental institution- their relationship is more complicated, with deep and emotional connections that time hasn’t erased. Conjure up memories of old folkies Ian and Sylvia, mixed with a little Sonny and Cher.

As usual, Guest conceived the basic story idea (with co-writer Levy), and employs the old improvisational technique allowing his ensemble to go with the flow.  His loyal acting troupe is excellent as always, creating an array of characters, some more oddball than others, and a few that pull at your heart.  Most notable, and extremely funny is Fred Willard as Mike LaFontaine, manager of the New Main Street Singers. A former TV star, he injects the catch phrase “Wha’ happened?” from his old show, whenever possible thinking it will stir up laughs and memories of his defunct sitcom. And. Ed Begley, Jr. is amusing as Lars Olsen, the Swedish public TV executive who flavors his speech with consistent use of Yiddish expressions.  Another wacky character is the ditsy buxom publicist, hysterically portrayed by Jennifer Coolidge who states with her unusual speech pattern (or is it a strange accent) her “thanks for model trains. Without them we wouldn’t have the real ones.”

But, the problem is that Guest strays from his target.  While the humor is there, the mocking is barely present.  If folk artists from the sixties are the main subjects, where is the political satire? Where are the artists like Joan Baez and Bob Dylan - folk icons whose songs made political and social statements, and were the backbone of a revolutionary movement?   How can you ignore an important part of that genre, especially one that was so strong in that era?  The talented cast takes on the lighter, down home, foot stomping groups, but lacks the edginess.  Rather than poking fun at the music, it leaves you wanting to just sing along because the songs, written by Guest are just TOO good. They are not silly enough to make a point.  And that’s too bad.

Another problem is Mitch and Mickey, whose story becomes a central focus. Levy and O’Hara are wonderful actors and have great chemistry. But, their complex relationship was too serious and melodramatic.  Levy’s Mitch is a disturbing sight and a pitiful figure that evoked too much sadness in a film that is supposed to be a comic send up. I found his character to be tragic, not funny.

All in all, Guest and company delivers an inconsistent satire on a segment of folk music history.  Those over the age of forty may want to check it out and form their own opinion, since they would at least find it a bit nostalgic.  However, younger audiences may not have a clue on the acts being parodied, since they weren’t even born in that era. My opinion is that A Mighty Wind lacks the impact of its title.  Neither hot nor cold, it’s more like a lukewarm breeze, not sure which way to blow.