Film Reviews

A MIGHTY WIND

By • May 9th, 2003 •

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Warner Bros. Pictures
A Castle Rock Entertainment presentation
Running time — 92 minutes / MPAA rating: PG-13

Horrible.

O Lord, have mercy on me. Yes, I have sinned, but I did my penance. I sat through A MIGHTY WIND.

This movie knocks DOWN WITH LOVE off its “Worst Movie of 2003” perch. Old folk singers reunite for a tribute. What could be more punishing then to sit through a Kingston Trio-like group reunion? I know there are legions of folk music fans out there still walking, but are they going to movies? Is this the demographic that drives ticket sales?

Much has been written about the “mockumentary,” and more significantly, that this movie, like Christopher Guest’s last one, BEST IN SHOW, is completely improvised. Is this a good thing? Film 80 hours, like Guest did here, and somebody will eventually say something amusing “in character”. Why not just take the trouble and write lines? Why be lazy?

For a public broadcasting TV special honoring a deceased pioneer of folk music, the Folksmen, Mitch & Mickey, and The New Main Street Singers come together after 30 years under the guidance of anal-retentive Jonathan Steinbloom (Bob Balaban). The Folksmen are Alan Barrows (Christopher Guest), Mark Shubb (Harry Shearer) and Jerry Palter (Michael McKean). The Folksmen appear to have gracefully eased into middle-age with nostalgia, but Mitch (Eugene Levy) is nearly incoherent after a long stint in a mental hospital. His former wife Mickey (Catherine O’Hara) has lost all sense of personality since marrying a catheter salesman. Their romantic, chaste love duets made music history but are torturous here. Unfortunately, Levy has chosen to create Mickey so that his halting speech and frozen stare forces the camera to stay trained far too long on him. He is an interesting character in a swamp of boring people.

The only other characters worth mentioning are The New Main Street Singers front man, Terry Bohner (John Michael Higgins) and his sexually fascinating wife Laurie (Jane Lynch). I wanted more of them. Mercifully, Parker Posey only has one scene, but she sings. The entire ensemble cast, with Balaban playing himself once again, seems worn-out and tired. Only Fred Willard as Mike LaFontaine and Jennifer Coolidge as Amber Cole show a spark of fun in their small roles. Perhaps 80 hours of film kills spontaneity, something improvised material should showcase.

I apologized to the three people I took to see A MIGHTY WIND and then said, “I hate movies.”


Cast:
Jonathan Steinbloom: Bob Balaban
Lars Olfen: Ed Begley Jr.
Amber Cole: Jennifer Coolidge
Terry Bohner: John Michael Higgins
Lawrence F Turpin: Michael Hitchcock
Mitch Cohen: Eugene Levy
Laurie Bohner: Jane Lynch
Jerry Palter: Michael McKean
Wally Fenton: Larry Miller
Mickey Devlin Crabbe: Catherine O’Hara
Sissy Knox: Parker Posey
Mark Shubb: Harry Shearer
Naomi Steinbloom: Deborah Theaker
Mike LaFontaine: Fred Willard
George Menschell: Paul Dooley
Leonard Crabbe: Jim Piddock

Credits:
Director: Christopher Guest
Screenwriters: Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy
Producer: Karen Murphy
Director of photography: Arlene Donnelly Nelson
Production designer: Joseph T. Garrity
Editor: Robert Leighton
Costume designer: Durinda Wood
Music producer: Jeffrey CJ Vanston

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