This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

This Is Spinal Tap (1984) movie poster

director Rob Reiner
viewed: 10/16/2013

You know you’ve created something culturally significant when your creation becomes a ubiquitous exemplar, referenced ad infinitum.  Or even when smaller elements of your creation reach a ubiquity of their own (e.g. “turning an amp up to 11”).

Rob Reiner’s mockumentary/rockumentary, This is Spinal Tap nailed its points of parody,  hard  rock musicians/the music industry/the reverential music documentary, so utterly, so perfectly, that it is still not just hilarious to watch but is hugely prescient and endlessly amusing.

I still recall first seeing the film as a midnight movie not long after it had come out.  It was funny then.  It’s even funnier now.

I was noting to a friend the perplexing directorial career of Rob Reiner.  His first several films were all excellent: This is Spinal Tap (1984), Stand By Me (1986), The Princess Bride (1987), When Harry Met Sally… (1989), maybe even Misery (1990), the only mediocre film being The Sure Thing (1985) — though I liked it at the time .  All quite unique from one another, though arguably within the overall mainstream.  This is Spinal Tap was the most unusual of the films with its fake documentary style and satire, sort of inventing a genre of its own which co-writer/co-star Christopher Guest has turned into his own mini-empire: Waiting for Guffman (1996), Best in Show (2000), and A Mighty Wind (2003).

My overall speculation is that Reiner is indeed a talent, probably surrounded himself with other great talents.  But why his directing career went into the garbage factory afterward…  Well, I’ll be honest, I’ve not even seen any of the films after Misery so perhaps I really should not speculate but I’ll just leave it to say that the films have gotten poor reviews and have lacked anything of interest to me.  I may be talking out of my hat, but I’d dare someone to prove that he’s made anything since the 1980’s that comes close to the quality of those four great films.  And I put it out there more as an oddball question.  In this line of questioning, I usually point to Steve Martin, who was at one time one of the funniest people in the world, who also made a lot of great movies in the 1980’s (Pennies from Heaven (1981), Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982), The Man with Two Brains (1983) (the latter two directed by Rob Reiner’s father, Carl Reiner, interestingly enough) and arguably several more at least great comedic roles in mainstream comedies.  I like to cite the more unusual early films.  Martin, too, wandered off into low mediocrity in his film career.

Ramble ramble ramble….I’m sorry.

Anyways, it’s a great film.  Funny as hell.  Pitch-perfect.  Harry Shearer, Michael McKean, and Guest are amazing.

And I will stop writing now rather than address the weird meta-post film life of Spinal Tap.  That’s just too much for one post.


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