Movie Review
A Mighty Wind
A Mighty Wind poster
By Lee Tistaert     Published April 19, 2003
US Release: April 16, 2003

Directed by: Christopher Guest
Starring: Christopher Guest , Eugene Levy , Michael McKean , Catherine O'Hara

Running Time: 87 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $17,509,000
28 of 132
May not be consistently funny, but it serves up a good amount of laughs
Improvisational comedy seems to be a rising act with today?s entertainment industry, as with Larry David?s Curb Your Enthusiasm (on HBO), as well as writer/director Christopher Guest?s continuing efforts in the genre, non-scripted humor (on average) tends be a little more rewarding than the norm.

Writer/director Guest, who has been famous for co-scripting This is Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman, and Best in Show, now has A Mighty Wind. Where Spinal Tap spoofed rock bands, Guffman with plays, and Show with dog show competitions, Mighty Wind ventures in typically irritating groundwork: folk bands. But for fans of the filmmaker and its ongoing familiar cast (from all the films), it would be expected that the rollout of their creativity would not be annoying, but rather inventive and possibly hilarious.
A Mighty Wind is a mockumentary focusing on the reunion of a few 1960?s folk bands that are to play at the famous The Town Hall in tribute to the recent death of a legendary folk singer. Mitch Cohen (a run-down, out-of-it musician), played by Eugene Levy, is for the most part the highlight of the anticipated concert, as his duo with Mickey Devlin Crabbe (Catherine O?Hara) was once the adorable couple who led many to tears with their performances. But with any Christopher Guest episode, one knows that there will be knots in the story, and mostly in a comedic viewpoint mocking the way things are or were.

While A Mighty Wind may not be consistently funny, it serves up a good amount of laughs. And where Best in Show felt a little longer and drawn out in plot, Guest has made sure to tighten things up a bit and show only what is necessary to move things right along. And that is partly why the film is as engaging to witness, as it doesn?t spend too much time with any characters and doesn?t hand anyone the comedic spotlight over anyone else.

For anybody not familiar with the circumstances, the procedure for these mock flicks of Guest?s involves an outline for the actors to follow in story, but for the most part the comedians are coming up with the material on the spot. There?s no official script (outside of the tunes played), as the actors just wing it on set and the best lines are used for the final cut of the feature. It?s prone to be a film editor?s nightmare, but when the final solution is present entertainment is definitely in the air.

A problem that can come along with a film as such is the ability to catch all its jokes and gags, as they sometimes fly by so quickly and between the pacing of the scene and audience laughter, it may not be too difficult to miss a punch-line or two. And not only that, but the subject matter at bat forces viewers to be aware of the music era of its genre, which can turn off younger fans not acquainted with such a generation. Being that it?s not my generation, some of the gags didn?t find a connection with my humor buds but the substance created also carries an edge to it where sometimes it?s not necessary to be fully educated. And in a filmmaking perspective, that can be a major goal (to entertain those who don?t hold deep knowledge surrounding the topic).

A positive end of A Mighty Wind is that unlike some films where you remember one person having stolen the show in hilarious material, the comedy doesn?t allow anyone to stand over everyone else, creating an equal environment. One possible exception, while not utilized as fully as I had hoped, is the presence of Fred Willard. Known for his widely appreciated role in Best in Show as the commentator who had no idea what he was talking about, the Willard that people adore is back in form once again here. More than any other cast member, when Willard is on screen the set is on fire, as the charisma brought on by his mass enthusiasm rubs off on the viewer ever-so-easily. But what halts his performance from being the standout player of them all is Guest's decision of only sprinkling him in with brief but worth-it bits.

And quite a fascinating note was how much it felt like the audience at my show was eagerly waiting for his appearance, as when the camera first showed his face on-screen, a light applause immediately set off with a few cheers even going into the air. It was the only appearance to retrieve such an enthusiastic response and even makes one wonder what would happen if Willard got his own comedy one day.

A Mighty Wind didn?t get me laughing to the extent I had hoped, but it flew by rapidly and concluded before I expected (somewhat alike Punch-Drunk Love) with its speedy 90 minute running time. In that regard, it had to have cued to my consistent engagement into the story. The film has some solid laughs to be had, with multiple chuckles offered, but when the flick isn?t downright funny the acting is taking highlight. And for me that component was really what kept the show alive at times, as when humor wasn?t being delivered promptly, its members understood their roles and kept interest.

The Christopher Guest release could be another step closer to the rollout of additional improvisational comedy in the Hollywood system, as with Curb Your Enthusiasm (one of my favorite shows currently on the air), the objective is to create the atmosphere via on-the-moment ingenuity rather than a screenwriter?s pre-written material. The HBO series found huge success with cable viewers, hinting that such a revelation in entertainment could be an upcoming tactic in the distant future. The one defect that can show up is whether mainstream audiences can handle such substance, which could be the deciding factor to whether an upcoming film in Mighty Wind?s league ever gets broadened exposure and acceptance.

The type of treatment given to these projects isn?t for everyone, but it presents a new and fascinating approach at telling a normal story, even if in mock or parody form. My hope is that we get more comedies in this department, as there are many a time when a film gives off the impression that an actor or two would be great if they could only express their humor the way they really want. And if Hollywood allows such projects to be produced, the movie industry may possibly see a breakthrough.

With a film like A Mighty Wind, the audience is handed the opportunity to see a bunch of gifted actors thinking up their lines revolving about a pre-planned outline, and waiting to see what results is often times part of the fun on its own.
Lee's Grade: B
Ranked #28 of 132 between Thirteen (#27) and Raising Victor (#29) for 2003 movies.
Lee's Overall Grading: 3025 graded movies
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'A Mighty Wind' Articles
  • Todd's review B+
    April 15, 2003    If you liked Best in Show or Waiting for Guffman, you will love A Mighty Wind -- Todd Heustess