Picks and Pans Review: This Is Spinal Tap
It's billed as a "Rockumentary by Marty DiBergi." But it's fiction, not a documentary. And "Marty DiBergi" is Rob Reiner, the film's director, co-writer, narrator and co-star as a rock filmmaker. He focuses on a comeback attempt by a '60s heavy-metal rock band, Spinal Tap. In a style reminiscent of Martin Scorsese's The Last Waltz, Reiner does take-offs on practically every rock cliché there is, with often hilarious results. As the leaders of the group, co-writers Michael (Used Cars) McKean, Christopher (Death Wish) Guest and Harry (Saturday Night Live) Shearer deftly satirize the scream-and-shake school of pop rock, deadpanning their way through a script that goes from subtle humor to slapstick. The band plays to empty houses, fights over girlfriends' influence and battles about "artistic differences" ("There's a fine line between stupid and... clever," Guest says to Reiner). The tiny Shearer gets trapped in an onstage fiberglass prop. The aging, bleached-blond idol McKean attempts to lead the group in an a cappella version of Heartbreak Hotel at Elvis Presley's gravesite. But Guest stands out as the misunderstood member of the group—when he's not working on a piece of his "Mach" music (Mozart mixed with Bach), he's complaining about the dressing-room food (the rye bread doesn't fit the cheese). The trio also wrote all the group's songs—Sex Farm and Hell Hole, for instance—and performs them with great comic panache. There are cameos by such familiar faces as Billy Crystal, Ed Begley Jr., David Letterman's band leader, Paul Shaffer, and Howard Hesseman. This is a very funny movie—not as funny, perhaps, as some real-life heavy metal bands are unintentionally—but very funny, (R)
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