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"A MIGHTY WIND"
(2003) (Eugene Levy, Michael McKean) (PG-13)

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QUICK TAKE:
Comedy: Various folk music groups have just two weeks to come together to perform in a concert to honor the late man who helped them with their careers.
PLOT:
Legendary folk music icon Irving Steinbloom has recently passed away, and thus his middle-aged son, Jonathan (BOB BALABAN), has decided to put on a tribute concert performance in his memory. With only two weeks to go, he hopes to convince various groups that worked with his father to appear.

Among them are The Folksman -- Mark Shubb (HARRY SHEARER), Jerry Palter (MICHAEL McKEAN) and Alan Barrows (CHRISTOPHER GUEST) - "Mitch and Mickey" -- Mitch Cohen (EUGENE LEVY) and Mickey Crabbe (CATHERINE O'HARA) and the younger The New Main Street Singers - that includes the likes of Laurie (JANE LYNCH) and Terry Bohner (JOHN MICHAEL HIGGINS), Sissy Knox (PARKER POSEY) and others.

Working with public TV producer Lars Olfen (ED BEGLEY, JR.), public relations managers Wally Fenton (LARRY MILLER) and Amber Cole (JENNIFER COOLIDGE), manager Mike LaFontaine (FRED WILLARD), and the man who runs the venue, Lawrence E. Turpin (MICHAEL HITCHCOCK), Jonathan races against the clock -- as do the performers who hone their acts - to have everything ready for the big night.

OUR TAKE: 7 out of 10
When it comes to documentaries, there's always the nagging notion that some filmmakers have injected their personal bias, thoughts or statements into their work, thus nullifying the objective status that the genre demands. The films of Michael Moore, for instance, walk that fine line, although they usually fall across it, yet are still considered "true" documentaries.

When it comes to the work of writer/director Christopher Guest and co-writer Eugene Levy, however, there's no such confusion. That's because their pictures are dramatized "mockumentaries," part spoof and part "regular" movie, where on-camera interviews are interspersed with the rest of the story.

Taking their cue from "This is Spinal Tap," they lovingly poked fun at small town pageants in "Waiting For Guffman," and the Westminster Dog Show in "Best in Show." For their next project, they've decided to tackle a once popular but now mostly obscure musical genre - folk music - in "A Mighty Wind."

Essentially using much of the same cast and basic story structure from their previous efforts, Guest and Levy have delivered another amusing, wacky, occasionally hilarious and even touching picture. Like Guffman and Show, this picture follows a group of characters and their idiosyncrasies and obsessions regarding an upcoming big event that's close to their hearts.

Part of the fun is in watching the members of the filmmakers' recurring troupe inhabit the various folk singers in both the past and present. Each has his or her particular quirk or defining characteristic, and the cast members seem to be having such a ball playing them that the effect is contagious. While the large cast prevents any one character or fictitious musical group from standing out or dominating the proceedings, they're the epitome of a comedy ensemble and work together wonderfully.

Although the film is about the musicians and singers brought together for the fictitious tribute performance, some of the more entertaining characters are those involving the non-musically inclined. Fred Willard ("How High," "The Wedding Planner") is quite funny as the former TV "star" turned manager, Ed Begley, Jr. ("Auto Focus," "Get Over It") gets some of the funnier lines as a Swedish TV producer, and Bob Balaban ("The Majestic," "Gosford Park") generates some decent laughs playing the persnickety organizer whose perfectionism is annoyingly amusing.

Harry Shearer ("Dick," "The Truman Show"), Michael McKean ("The Guru") and Christopher Guest ("A Few Good Men," "The Princess Bride") inhabit The Folksman who were "two-badours" before McKean's character joined them and turned them into troubadours.

Various performers such as Jane Lynch ("Collateral Damage," "Best In Show"), John Michael Higgins ("The Man Who Wasn't There," "Bicentennial Man") and the sadly underused Parker Posey ("The Sweetest Thing," "Josie and the Pussycats") are part of another group, the spunky and cheerful The New Main Street Singers (a folksy spoof of Up With People). Meanwhile, some of the best material involves Eugene Levy ("Bringing Down the House," "Like Mike") and Catherine O'Hara ("Orange County," "Best in Show") as a typical '60s folk duo that crashed and burned.

The script provides all sorts of fun and funny material involving those characters and their music. The filmmakers, however, haven't designed the original songs as pure spoofs, but rather loving if funny takes on the music form. They end up being a toe-tapping bit of icing on the cake and even manage to tug a bit on the old heartstrings during one ballad.

Guest's directorial style keeps things moving along at a good and even brisk pace, with plenty of jokes and funny touches (such as old album covers and song titles) evenly dispersed throughout the offering. Everything, of course, leads to the big, cumulative event, and it's just as fun as all that precedes it, resulting in an entertaining ride from start to finish. Just as enjoyable as the filmmakers' previous and similar works, "A Mighty Wind" rates as a 7 out of 10.




Reviewed April 4, 2003 / Posted April 16, 2003


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