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Review: A Mighty Wind

by: Caroline Westbrook - Last updated: 2004-01-18

When Jewish folk music mogul Irving Steinbloom dies, his son Jonathan sets about arranging a tribute concert featuring some of the acts he made famous in the 1960s – most of whom are every bit as eccentric as they were when Steinbloom turned them into stars four decades earlier.

That’s the premise of A Mighty Wind, the latest spoof documentary from Spinal Tap director Christopher Guest. And fans of that film – to say nothing of Guest’s other so-called ‘mockumentaties’ Waiting For Guffman and Best In Show, will not be disappointed. Although it’s not quite as memorable as Spinal Tap, it’s still hugely entertaining viewing.


The film’s key strength lies in its ensemble cast, many of whom have starred in one of Guest’s previous efforts and as such are on familiar territory here. Actor/director Balaban is terrific as the neurotic Steinbloom Jr, who is obsessed with making sure every last detail is perfect before the concert, right down to making sure the plants in the foyer are unlikely to injure any of his elderly relatives. His revelation early on that he was founder of the Jewish Children’s Polo League (who played games on Shetland ponies as it was safer) gives you an idea of just how highly strung his character is, and is one of the high points of the film.


But let’s not forget Eugene Levy (who also co-wrote the script with Guest) as the fabulously deranged folkie Mitch Cohen, who just hasn’t been the same since parting company with his singing partner Mickey in the 60s, or Simpsons voice man Harry Shearer, in fine deadpan form as one third of the gleefully naff Folksmen.


And then there’s Ed Begley Jr as the decidedly non-Jewish TV producer Lars Olfen, a man with a habit of breaking into stereotypical Jewish speak at key moments. “The naches that I'm feeling right now is because your dad was like mishpoche to me,” he tells the bemused Balaban in one genuinely priceless scene before launching into a stream of unintelligible Yiddish.


Ultimately, this is pretty lightweight stuff, and if you’ve seen one of Guest’s films before you’ll know what to expect here. But there’s still plenty to enjoy, from the colourful characterisations to the feelgood folk-filled finale – and it’s good to see that there’s still life in this well-worn genre.


A Mighty Wind is certificate 12a