It's pretty much an established fact in my brain that 1984 is by far one of the best years in film history. This was a year that brought such personal favourites as 'Elm Street', 'Temple of Doom' (I don't care what anyone says), and of course, my nearest and dearest 'Ghostbusters'. I was only 2 years old here, though, so had to get to all of these movies at some point later in life. 'This Is Spinal Tap' was one huge hit from '84 I totally missed out on, until a friend showed it to me, and thankfully it was the right kind of friend - a very musically inclined one.
Several years afterwards, I finally decided to give it another look on my own time. I'm sorry to say that I didn't get quite as much out of it this time around than the first. I still thought it was plenty funny, and a good time overall. But I wonder if I got more out of it the first time due to watching it with someone who has made a lifetime hobby out of music. Nevertheless, it's well worth a watch, especially if your any sort of metal fan. This is a mockumentary style film, created by Martin Di Bergi (Rob Reiner) as he follows Spinal Tap on their 1982 US concert tour, promoting their new album 'Smell the Glove' - an album made extremely controversial due to its cover art.
While on tour, interviews are done with bandmembers David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean), Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest), Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer), Viv Savage (David Kaff) and drummer-for-now, Mick Shrimpton (R.J. Parnell). As the mockumentary unfolds, we get to know the bandmembers and their manager, Ian Faith (Tony Hendra) as they deal minor issues like food that's too big for the bread; major issues like a set piece gone very wrong, and turning things up to eleven with a lack of ticket sales due to offensive album art. The real humour here lies in a combination of the bandmembers' dimwittedness, and the idea that this is a purposeful comedy that still has a pretty average formula for true-story movies about music.
This is a satire of other music documentaries like 'The Song Remains the Same', covering Led Zeppelin, 'The Last Waltz', covering The Band. In the end, there ends up being a lot of neat, interesting details about this movie. It coined the phrase "turn it up to eleven", and as a result, IMDb actually has its rating for the film out of eleven instead of its regular ten. Spinal Tap was featured on an episode of 'The Simpsons'. Most of the dialogue throughout the film was improvised, and apparently, hours upon hours of footage was initially shot for it. The film was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress, and selected by the National Film Registry for preservation, and to this day is recognized as the film that brought the mockumentary out into the mainstream.
After checking it out this time around, I've developed an appreciation for what it is, but I'm not sure I'm ready to join the 'Spinal Tap' cult just yet. This is one of those movies I feel I don't get as much out of as others do. However, the potential for it to grow on me over time is most definitely there. One should bear in mind that 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail' is what I consider my favourite all around comedy, but when I was first watching it, I only liked parts of it. I still think the movie is a great time, and it's a lot of fun to watch with friends as though you're watching a documentary on a favourite shared band - but it goes wrong in all the funniest ways. For yours truly, it's a good time, something to put on for a laugh, and I'll be revisiting it for sure in the near future.