FILM (1984)

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 July, 2011, 12:00am


This is Spinal Tap
Rob Reiner, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean
Director: Rob Reiner

The years have been kind to This is Spinal Tap: it still has the star quality so evident on its release in 1984. Perhaps this 'mockumentary' works even better today because the 21st century seems to be mirroring its satirical outlook.

These days, old rock'n' rollers are forever on comeback tours, trying to rekindle the magic in the face of diminishing returns. It's like they never saw this film, which pokes fun at bands that didn't know when to quit, bands such as the fictional Spinal Tap. The rock music industry doesn't come off well in this 82-minute ribbing.

This is Spinal Tap purports to be the work of a filmmaker named Marty DiBergi - actually director Rob Reiner - chronicling an attempted comeback by his favourite heavy metal group. The three principals of the film - lead singer David St Hubbins (played by Michael McKean), guitarist Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest) and bassist Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer), and their slimy manager, Ian Faith (Tony Hendra) - are extensively 'interviewed', and the saga of these dim-witted metal-heads unfolds to the viewer's mirth.

The Spinal Tap story is traced from the band's early hippy days, to a psychedelic period - truly painful to watch - through to their current predicament as The Band The World Forgot. To reverse their fortunes, the band plan to unleash a US tour with no compromises, meaning: endless screaming guitar solos, tight spandex pants, and the kind of live theatrics that 1980s groups such as Van Halen, Poison, and Motley Crue indulged in around the time this film came out.

Despite its razor-sharp self-awareness, This is Spinal Tap is easy to warm to. The band members are presented as likable muppets, whose only crime is taking themselves too seriously. There's an in-joke dimension to it all, but you don't have to be too close to - or knowledgeable about - the crazy world of rock to appreciate this clever film.