#56. This is Spinal Tap (1984)
Directed by: Rob Reiner
Written by: Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Rob Reiner
Starring: Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Rob Reiner
The conversation about “best mockumentary film” begins and ends with Rob Reiner’s This is Spinal Tap – it’s absolutely one of the funniest movies ever made, and the very best example of what the subgenre has to offer. This is Spinal Tap follows declining rock band Spinal Tap during their tour of the United States, promoting their new album “Smell the Glove”. Spinal Tap consists of David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean), Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest), Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer), Viv Savage (David Kaff), and a rotating cast of drummers who constantly seem to die in mysterious circumstances. Filmmaker Marty Di Bergi (Rob Reiner) follows the band, chronicling their history, controversies, and the tension building within the band that threatens their very existence. This is Spinal Tap marked the first collaboration between the team Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer – a relationship that would see the three of them featured in such terrific mockumentaries as Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman, and A Mighty Wind. The chemistry between the film’s three leads is pitch perfect throughout the entire film, and seemingly only got better as the years went on. The chemistry between Guest’s Nigel Tufnel and McKean’s David St. Hubbins stands out in particular, the two men are able to play off each other comedically, and yet the audience can sense the simmering tension between the two main characters. This pushes the dramatic subplot of the film, and gives it a sense of weight in order to draw viewers in. With that said, the worse things seem to get for Spinal Tap, the funnier and more absurd the film becomes. Its punchlines are ridiculous and absurd in the best way, and its recurring jokes get bigger and better – especially with the band’s inability to hold onto a drummer. The film’s writing is the strongest part of This is Spinal Tap, and has led to dozens of lines of dialogue becoming canonized in the history of film. Its structure as a documentary feels natural and not forced like so many mockumentaries feel – instead of chronicling the band over a period of years, it instead feels like we’re hanging out with the band over a couple of weeks. This is Spinal Tap is a film I could watch and quote endlessly, and one I recommend to absolutely anybody in need of a hearty laugh – it’s the ultimate hang out film.