This is Spinal Tap

I was so happy to see today's movie on Ebert's list - This is Spinal Tap, directed by Rob Reiner in 1984. It's one of my favorite comedies, and I never get tired of seeing it. I love that Ebert loved this movie enough to include it - it was sort of unexpected, but great.

I've watched this film many times, and every time it's amazing. It's so well written, and well-acted. The actors all seem to just have fun being their characters and made them seem totally real. There's so many little touches and moments that make it feel like a real documentary. I love that it just perfectly gets its subject matter - enough so that many rock stars have not been able to see the humor in the film, because too many things in the movie had really happened to them.

It's hard to write about a movie like this that you've seen so many times...for me, at least. I sort of know it so well that it's hard to point out every reason why I love it so much. I'm weird.

The film is a mockumentary (or a rockumentary) about Spinal Tap, a loud, gaudy metal band. A film maker chronicles their tour and the release of their new album, "Smell the Glove". The film shows their roots and different styles, documenting their rise to fame. As the film goes on, it starts to show their fall, as well, as their gigs start getting canceled and the venues they do get booked in get progressively more sad and small. I love all of the interviews with the band members as well, and some of the best moments in the film come from those.

I always am shocked by how great the acting is in this movie. Much of it is improv, which makes it even more impressive. All of the guys seem to just totally embody the band members. Every conversation flows so realistically - it doesn't seem much different than any other "behind the band" thing that we watch. I always assume that everyone had a blast making this movie, because they seemed so into it. For dopes like me, it seems like it would be so hard to stay in character while having long, funny conversations like that. I like that in the film, you get the sense that the band members are sort of innocently happy to be themselves, and the actors seem genuinely happy to be playing the band members, if that makes any sort of sense.

I think it's so funny that Spinal Tap sort of became a real band after the film - they put out albums and actually toured. This happened more recently with a cartoon parody of a metal band called Metalocalpyse, which owes a lot to Spinal Tap. Even though I listen to a lot of metal, I can admit, as Ebert points out, that Spinal Tap's songs are really not much different or worse than actual metal. Honestly, some metal I listen to is actually more ridiculous. I love that about the movie, though - I love watching it because it's laughing along with the genre, and it knows what it's satirizing so well. I think it's such a popular and loved movie because we have all seen the ridiculous antics that rock stars do, or heard the doofy stories about bands, and the film just feels so true to those things. The movie doesn't feel much more different than "Behind the Music" or whatever, and that's why it's so perfect.

I don't want to just detail what scenes and jokes are my favorite and you know, kill them by over-explaining them ("See, it's funny because he keeps insisting that they go to 11, even after the film maker points out that they could just make 10 louder than normal."). It's so hard to talk about comedy without just talking about what was funny, though!  One thing that I do love about the comedy in the movie is something that Ebert mentions that I couldn't put my finger on before. He writes that the film is never cruel to the band. The film sort of...loves them, you know? I guess I sort of like people who are just so themselves - they don't apologize for their behavior or try to be someone else. That's why I love the characters in this movie so much, because they're just so loudly themselves that I can't really laugh too hard at them, or think badly of them.

This is such a great, fun, movie, and it's worth watching it, no matter how many times you've seen it. For me, I always just find something new and funny in it. There's a lot of little things going on in the background that are funny that I feel like I discover more of on each viewing. I just love it, I always laugh way too much and smile way too hard. You have to watch this movie if you haven't yet!

Ebert's Great Movie Essay on This is Spinal Tap
Buy or rent it on Amazon


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