This Is Spinal Tap

This Is Spinal Tap

*****

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

When approaching a classic like this, it's hard to know where to begin. If I thought the Eye For Film admins would let me get away with it, I'd jack that star rating up to 11. As it is you'll just have to imagine that five is tuned up a little bit higher.

Spinal Tap are the ultimate heavy metal band: Michael McKean as singer David St Hubbins, Christopher Guest as guitarist Nigel Tufnel, and Harry Shearer as bassist Derek Smalls. After a long and eclectic career which has seen the band's line-up change many times (with particular bad luck for the drummers) they're launching a new album, Smell The Glove, and are taking it on a comeback tour across America. Documentary filmmaker Marty DiBergi (Rob Reiner) is along for the ride. But after such a long absence, will the public still remember who Spinal Tap are?

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With some cracking tunes that perfectly parody the likes of Queen, the Stones and Hawkwind, and with a host of subtle cameos, This Is Spinal Tap has plenty of rock n' roll atmosphere even as it follows the band's slide into desperation - the struggle to find the stage from the dressing rooms, the horror of taking second billing to a puppet show, and the disaster that is Stonehenge.

Always putting on brave faces, its central characters are tremendously endearing, but what makes it stand out from its many followers is its deep affection for its subject. Critics who used to take the piss out of heavy metal fans for 'thinking Spinal Tap were a real band' were missing the point. Reiner knows heavy metal fans aren't stupid and this is aimed as much at them as at anyone else, hence the great support it has enjoyed over the years. Every now and again, the stars reunite for charity events. One such occasion, when they auditioned for a drummer, had the likes of Elton John and Ringo Starr turning up to join in.

With its gentle yet astute observational comedy and its powerful characterisation, this is a film with the power to entertain viewers of all ages from all social backgrounds. It's a film one can watch again and again - a film you'll struggle to resist quoting at every opportunity. It's packed with great lines, cleverly edited and beautifully paced. A masterpiece of contemporary film making.

Reviewed on: 06 Dec 2008
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The ultimate spoof rockumentary follows heavy metal band Spinal Tap on a comeback tour across America.
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Director: Rob Reiner

Writer: Christopher Guest, Michael McKean

Starring: Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Rob Reiner, Tony Hendra, June Chadwick

Year: 1984

Runtime: 82 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

Festivals:

New York 2014

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