Review: This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

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A cucumber wrapped in aluminum foil, that’s something I never thought of!

Written By: Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Rob Reiner & Harry Shearer
Directed By: Rob Reiner

I am a fan of dry observational humor, my deep rooted interest in something like Reno 911! should be evidence of that. When done right I don’t think anything quite makes me laugh like dry observational and conversational humor. This Is Spinal Tap is an example of dry humor done right. From delivery to awkward pauses, This Is Spinal Tap takes the tone of dry humor that I find so engaging.

I don’t think I will get too in depth in this review, because to be honest This Is Spinal Tap is a movie that either gets to you or it doesn’t. You either laugh at what you see or you don’t. You either feel sympathy for these characters at the same time as laughing at them and their situation, or you don’t. You either feel the real love they have for each other and for music, or you don’t. I most certainly do, but outside of a few anecdotes from the movie I don’t think I can goo to in depth without becoming a parrot of the jokes in the movie.

I will mention briefly that while I did love This Is Spinal Tap, it had a few moments that didn’t exactly click with me. Nothing horrible or atrocious, but a few small moments that didn’t connect with me sympathetically or humorously. That’s why as much as I love This Is Spinal Tap and will offer it glowing praise I don’t think it is the perfect movie. It’s not a big deal, but this is a note I felt I needed to hit.

Now, where do I begin and how far can I go before all I am doing is listing joke after joke verbatim from the film? This Is Spinal Tap is casual in its humor, this most likely comes from its improvisational nature. It never feels like it is trying too hard to be funny, it just is. Nothing is worse than a comedy that is trying to be funny, because that isn’t funny. This Is Spinal Tap doesn’t suffer from that problem because the cast is so laid back and the conversational nature of the film is very natural and as a result very funny. The dead pan looks on the faces of the band as they are told about terrible review after terrible review accompanied by hilarious album covers is funny because of their laid back reaction. They are floored by what they are hearing, but they remain passive and that makes it all the more funny.

The humor in This Is Spinal Tap is obvious, but it is obvious in a good way. The documentary style of This Is Spinal Tap means that the jokes don’t need to be set-up subtly, they can be obvious from a mile away because the documentarian would be guiding us down a certain path, letting us know what is coming. The actors are all fabulous because they play into this fact, they are always in character. There are moments that the camera captures that are quiet, such as Nigel’s longing look at David after Jeannine shows up, that would never happen if the actors weren’t so fantastic and so willing to immerse themselves in their characters.

With This Is Spinal Tap it all boils down to funny characters in funny scenarios that have a ring of truth to them. We believe that what we are seeing could happen, but it goes beyond that. We know that their are Spinal Tap’s in the world and that these things have happened to other bands. This Is Spinal Tap is hilarious, it is dry, witty and highly observational in its humor. But, most of all it is honest and has a heart. That is why it isn’t just funny, but a movie full of characters we can connect with even as we are laughing at them. Don’t be put off by the armadillo’s in their trousers, give Spinal Tap a chance, I wouldn’t be surprised if This Is Spinal Tap was the #5 grossing movie for the month of April in Luxembourg as we speak.

Rating:

***1/2

Cheers,
Bill

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2 responses to “Review: This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

  1. -Why don’t you just make ’10’ louder?

    -…This one goes to 11.

    Brilliant.

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