Say the titles Waiting For Guffman and Best In Show. Chances are you're already grinning, recalling favourite moments or classic gags. So the return of Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy and their cadre of improv-loving thesp friends is a reason to smile again. Maybe even chortle out loud.
But here's the bad news: with A Mighty Wind, it's all starting to feel a little bit 'been there, laughed at that'. Mockumentary format? Check. Big event? Check. Weird and wonderful characters? Check and check. It's like hearing the new album by your favourite band, only to realise they're the same sounds rearranged.
Now for the good news: there's a lot to like and laugh about in this tale of tuneful throwbacks. With Guest's former Spinal Tap bandmates (Harry Shearer, Michael McKean) reunited for balding balladeers The Folksmen, their gently witty interaction is a joy to watch, the riffing flowing naturally. Plus, their gifted song-spinning skills mean we're treated to plenty of lyrical goodness, such as the nutty 'Potatoes In The Paddy Wagon'. And Guest fans know they can trust veteran scene thief Fred Willard to blag the biggest guffaws. This time he's Mike LaFontaine, The New Main Street Singers' manager, all corny catchphrases and cack-handed suggestions. Shame he's reduced to a handful of scenes - every time his gleefully moronic mug shows up, the comic tempo gets a boost.
But there are bigger problems than shortchanging Willard. For the first time, Levy's performance is distracting rather than subtle, his synapse-frazzled Mitch tipping perilously into flat-out parody. Meanwhile, too many jokes feel much too easy for this talented team.
There's no doubting that Guest and Levy have this mockumentary gig down to an art. It's just a shame that A Mighty Wind never quite reaches the comedy high notes scaled by its predecessors. Time to strike up the band in a new direction? It certainly sounds like it.
Most of the performances are still sharp, but the format's getting a little stale around the edges. This Wind's not as mighty as we'd like.
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