This Is Spinal Tap review

Why you can trust GamesRadar+ Our experts review games, movies and tech over countless hours, so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about our reviews policy.

Comedy is hard, musical comedy even harder, but Rob Reiner's fake "rockumentary" about the US reunion tour of British heavy-metal gurus Spinal Tap manages to be both consistently funny and - particularly to the many genuine bands who have claimed it as a tour bus favourite - painfully plausible.

Reiner is dog-food ad director Marti DiBergi, whose mission is to capture "the sights, sounds and smells" of a rock band on tour. Sadly, the band in question is a hoary old bunch of has-beens with egos far in excess of their status. On vocals, David St Hubbins (Michael McKean), a self-confessed "full-time dreamer" given to flights of laughably pretentious fantasy on the subtexts of songs such as Big Bottom and Sex Farm. On lead guitar, Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest), a bovine man-child in spandex, with a collection of literally untouchable six, 12 and, probably, 13-stringers. On bass, Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer), an impossibly ordinary, pipe-puffing lothario prone to unhelpful asides. A key running gag is the revolving-door policy regarding the other members, particularly an endless series of luckless drummers ("He died... In a bizarre gardening accident.")

Guest, McKean and Shearer had already gone beyond the call of duty - playing all the instruments and writing the songs - but Reiner lifts the film from standard satire to high comedy by nailing even more authenticity. He gives the band a history, mocking up lurid old flower-power showreels of the fresher-faced, `60s Tap, and inviting them to reassess their early albums ("Shark Sandwich was just a two-word review... `Shit Sandwich'). Along the way, we meet their bolshie manager Ian Faith (Tony Hendra), surly drivers, and, of course, a startled set-designer whose Stonehenge model is far from adequate.

The cine re-release should be a welcome break for all those worn-down videos, and, inevitably, it'll place the glorious grandiosity of The Tap into a whole new perspective. Too much fucking perspective...

Time hasn't dulled the agonising richness of the songs, the toe-stiffening stupidity of the on-stage concepts, or the endless pith of Tufnel and St Hubbins' wisdom. Even if you've seen it an unhealthy number of times, have another go.

More info

Available platformsMovie

The Total Film team are made up of the finest minds in all of film journalism. They are: Editor Jane Crowther, Deputy Editor Matt Maytum, Reviews Ed Matthew Leyland, News Editor Jordan Farley, and Online Editor Emily Murray. Expect exclusive news, reviews, features, and more from the team behind the smarter movie magazine.