I guess it's high comedy making fun of the guy not in on the joke. Oh, yeah, it's a real fucking laugh riot. Just ask the Harelip and Worm how Goddamn funny it is sticking lit cigarettes up my nostril when I pass out at the Tavern bar. Or when I'm going for the high score on "Deer Hunter Pro: Fawn Avenger" and they pour a can of hot chili down my pants. Hell, if I raid Mrs. Filthy's laundry jar on the right night, I can buy enough Bud taps so that if there's a warm and chunky mess in my pants I assume that I'm responsible, and proud of it. Stick a fork in my pants and it'll stand straight up!
What makes a gag like this so damn funny, apparently, is what a clueless dupe I am. I'm too stupid to know the joke's on me. If I weren't, it wouldn't be worth someone driving drunk to the King Soopers just to buy the Stag chili.
This is the same premise that makes that awful Toyota Camry commercial that played before A Mighty Wind so God damn funny. In it, hipster garage rock plays while some asshole who looks like he reads old Maxims at the library and gets wardrobe tips from 1998 issues races around a barren, post-apocalyptic Los Angeles. He is apparently out of his fucking mind with joy that the world has come to an end, he survived and his grandparents left the car keys where he could find them. He's doing donuts in dry riverbeds and sitting on bus benches or making snow angels on dry pavement while the Camry idles in the middle of the street. "Look at me! I'm driving my dead grandpa's car!"
Toyota thinks this shit is all they need to tap into the youth market. That somehow, in one fell swoop, a rockin' song and an asshole in a tie-less suit is all it needs to turn the most boring car in America into the hippest thing since heroin addiction. This is funny because Toyota's spending so much money illustrating exactly why it's so completely clueless. They have no idea that every kid watching is thinking, "Some senior's gonna be pissed when he comes out of Coco's and finds his car stolen."
Cluelessness is what makes the characters in the Christopher Guest folk music pseudo-documentary A Mighty Wind endearing and funny. Hilarious? No, not really. Not as funny as Guest's other movies, Best in Show and Waiting for Guffman, but still funnier and sweeter than any of the shit dribbling from Adam Sandler's ass. And it's funny because its characters are so lost to reality. They are people strongly committed to the insipid, noncommittal banality of 60s folk music.
When a folk music promoter dies, his son (Bob Balaban) plans to bring back three of his biggest acts for a tribute. The acts are the Folksmen (Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer - also known as Spinal Tap), the cultish New Main Street Singers and folk sweethearts Mitch and Mickey (Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara). That's it, really. The story suffers from a lack of tension and character development. Really, these characters are so fully realized and have so much history that the fun is watching them reveal themselves and play. The Folksmen are a Kingston Trio-like group but without all the alcoholism. They're Boulder-style liberals who aren't activists but don't want anyone messing with their easy-flow trust fund lifestyles. The New Main Street Singers are a cultish group that won't let new members take off the stuffy uniform until they're truly ready and wear the big, fake smiles of people in denial. Mitch (Eugene Levy) and Mickey (Catherine O'Hara) were the sweethearts of folk music, a couple so in love they made America swoon. Now, after 30 years, they don't speak to each other but will reunite for the special. Levy is still an emotional mess after the original breakup. He made a series of solo albums based on his desire to kill himself. Mickey is a suburban housewife, married to a model train enthusiast. What ties the characters together is they all made vapid songs for people who wanted the illusion of caring without the hassles. It's music for people who believe in peace, freedom and equality, but don't want to confront its foes. While some listened to Dylan, flowers of this music wanted something that sounded as important, but was prettier and not nearly so confrontational. In short, it's music for the kinds of superficial middle-aged clods who listen to meaningless noise like "Prairie Home Companion" and watch Yanni concerts on PBS. It has the sheen of importance or intelligence and the depth of a piss puddle. The funniest thing is how close this music is to the crap from the Kingston Trio, Christy Minstrel Singers and the like. You have to listen a few times to get the joke.
As the concert draws nearer, Balaban frets over the toxicity of the lobby flower arrangements, and the big question is whether Mitch and Mickey will kiss during their hit "There's a Kiss at the End of the Rainbow" as they did all those years ago.
Guest and co-writer Eugene Levy use the same formula they used in their previous movies, having a cast of actors improv scenes from a basic script and character sketches, and then editing the best parts into a movie. Some people complain that the gimmick's worn out; it isn't, not yet. Hell, if Matthew Barney can get all those New York intemellectuals to kiss his ass for making five movies about descending testicles, then Guest should be given some room to work, too.
A Mighty Wind isn't hilarious. It's pretty damn funny, but it never builds to a frenzy of gags. In fact, there aren't gags or punchlines set up as awkwardly as blind dates for a popular girl's fat brother. Never does the movie veer way off course and sacrifice its characters just for a cheap laugh. And that's the strength. With the exception of a few sour notes, the humor comes from these deep, rich characters. And they are mostly funny characters, even if there are way too many of them with too little focus. As you watch them, you can feel their every word weighted by their past. It's not a past we see (except for some kids playing polo on Shetland ponies and a boy with his own cardboard-cutout folk band in the basement), but you can feel it. Most Hollywood movies treat backstory like water in the desert, used sparingly. The result is flat characters whose only relevant history is explicitly spelled out for plot points. That detail is A Mighty Wind's best feature.
It's weakest is the lack of conflict. I realize this is mimicking a documentary, but it's not really one. So it would be okay to inject more narrative drive into the story. While the preparations for the big reunion show and all of the characters are funny, nothing pushes the story along, and the climax is flat. A rift between the bands is hinted at, with both the Folksmen and Mitch and Mickey despising the New Main Street Singers, but it's never played out. To me, it would be some funny shit to see bands who are equally irrelevant bitter at each other. Also, while all the characters are deep, and the performances are funny, there are too many. Too much of a good thing can be hazardous, as anyone who saw me vomit in the 5-9 year-olds' section of the Arvada Spring Kite Flying Festival after eat 14 funnel cakes at can attest.
Wind is funny, though, and the clueless aging folkies won't
ever even know someone slid the chili down their pants. Four
to tell Filthy Something