Movie Review: This is Spinal Tap (1984)

Title: This is Spinal Tap
Release Date: March 2, 1984
Director: Rob Reiner
Production Company: Embassy Pictures

It’s such a fine line between stupid and clever.

I once caught the Stonehenge scene on tv when I was a kid, but somehow failed to watch This is Spinal Tap in its entirety until the late 1990s.  Suddenly, a whole world of pop culture references were open to me.  I had seen things like “These go to 11” and “Hello, Cleveland” in various places with no knowledge of their significance.

This Is Spinal Tap was not the first “mockumentary,” but it kicked off a style of spoof documentary that is still prominent today. It was also the directorial debut of Rob Reiner kicking off his early career imperial period with movies like Stand By Me, The Princess Bride, and When Harry Met Sally...  But it was also a  prelude to the series Christopher Guest Mockumentary Movies of the 90s and 00s.  Guest stars in the movie and co-wrote it with Reiner and co-stars Michael McKean and Harry Shearer.

Spoofing rock music excess and the conventions of concert movies, the mockumentary introduces us to the British Heavy Metal act Spinal Tap lead by David St. Hubbins (McKean),  Nigel Tufnel (Guest), and Derek Smalls (Shearer).  Reiner plays the director Martin “Marty” Di Bergi, intent on capturing Spinal Tap’s US tour. So many familiar faces pop as supporting roles that one could spend the whole movie shouting “Bruno Kirby! Ed Begley Jr.! Fran Drescher! Dana Carvey! Billy Crystal! Paul Benedict! Paul Shaffer! Anjelica Huston! Fred Willard!” and so on. The movie is famously made with improvised scenes, some of them caught on first takes, which lends it both a quirkiness and verisimilitude. It definitely still holds up as an all-time comedy classic.

I feel it’s like, it’s more like going, going to a, a national park or something. And there’s, you know, they preserve the moose. And that’s, that’s my childhood up there on stage. That moose, you know.

Rating: ****