Blu-ray Review
by Kevin Carr

    MOVIE: ***** (out of 5 stars)
    BLURAY EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5 stars)

    Rob Reiner as MARTY DIBERGI
    Michael McKean as DAVID ST. HUBBINS
    Christopher Guest as NIGEL TUFNEL
    Harry Shearer as DEREK SMALLS
    June Chadwick as JEANINE PETTIBONE
    Tony Hendra as IAN FAITH

    Rated R
    Studio: MGM

    Directed by: Rob Reiner

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In his feature film directorial debut, Rob Reiner sets his sights on skewering the rockumentaries of the 1970s by making “This Is Spinal Tap.” Told in a mockumentary format that is very familiar and popular today, “This Is Spinal Tap” follows the fictitious band Spinal Tap on their comeback tour. Featuring comedy legends Michael McKean, Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer as the legendary flower-children-turned-metal-band, this film paved the way for improv comedy on the modern silver screen.

Over the last twenty five years, “This Is Spinal Tap” has become one of the must-see films for cinemaphiles. Made long before video fakes like “The Blair Witch Project,” “This Is Spinal Tap” was a unique film of its time. The movie succeeds simply because it takes the comedy seriously. Everything is delivered with a straightforward nature that makes the characters and the situations utterly believable.

What’s so amazing about this film is that the situations are utterly ridiculous – including the band getting lost on their way from the green room to the stage and a ditzy girlfriend stepping in as the road manager and booking the band at bingo games – yet completely believable. If you didn’t know this was a fake film, you could easily believe it’s real.

Comedy fans should see this movie at least once simply for the impact it has had on popular culture. “This Is Spinal Tap” also had a remarkable impact on the music industry. Heavy metal fans embraced the fake band’s music, so much so they continued to call for reunion tours and more albums.

Similar to how Mel Brooks movies of the 60s and 70s were snapshots of comedy of their time, “This Is Spinal Tap” is a snapshot of mid-80s comedy. You’ll see some early appearances of now-famous folks (like Billy Crystal and Fran Drescher), and if you’re watching it for the first time, you’ll finally be in on dozens of pop culture in-jokes that will take it to eleven.

There are no real problems with “This Is Spinal Tap” aside from the abrupt ending. Any complaints I’d have against the film are lofted at the cinematic landscape that followed it. While Christopher Guest has made a nice selection of improv mockumentaries, the genre in the hands of amateurs can be grueling to watch.

The bonus material featured on “This Is Spinal Tap” is what has been previously available on DVD and laserdisc. That’s not to say it isn’t worth a look, especially if you’re looking to build a library for your new format. However, don’t expect anything more than what you’ve been given in previous releases.

Considering the film was shot on 16mm to better fit in with the documentary style, the hi-def format is lost on the visual component. The music numbers, however, are definitely worth catching for the Blu-ray sound.

Special features include more than an hour of deleted scenes, audio commentary by the in-character members of Spinal Tap, “Catching Up with Marty DiBergi” featurette, the “lost” Flower People press conference, four classic music videos from the band’s “history,” Spinal Tap’s appearance on “The Joe Franklin Show,” the original trailers (including the famous cheese documentary trailer) and other Spinal Tap endorsements.

The one thing you get new is a bonus DVD that comes with a performance of “Stonehenge” at the 2007 Live Earth Concert and a pretty hilarious National Geographic interview with Nigel Tufnel about Stonehenge.

Mockumentary fans, cinemaphiles and head-bangers who don’t mind being the butt of a couple jokes.

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