The biggest problem with A Mighty Wind is that it gets so involved with telling its story that it occasionally forgets to be comedy. Make no mistake, it’s not a bad story, but it’s not a story of talentless but enthusiastic losers like Waiting For Guffman or of hilariously obsessive dog lovers like Best In Show. The faux-folk musicians in A Mighty Wind are actually quite good at what they do and they’re not clueless buffoons like Spinal Tap. The dramatic elements, especially the story of Mitch (Catherine O’Hara) and Mickey (Eugene Levy) take control and the outright comedic elements, especially those of Fred Willard, tend to hang in the air like a loud fart at a funeral.
Folk music impresario Irving Steinbloom has died and his family is staging a reunion concert of his top acts in the hall where they used to play. Well, one son, Jonathan (Bob Balaban) is staging it. His brother (Don Lake) hates folk music and his sister (Deborah Theaker) can’t stop crying.
First on the bill are the Folksmen, a quirky trio who bear a striking resemblance to heavy metal band called Spinal Tap (Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer). Their sole hit song revolved around a roadside diner with a faulty neon sign. It’s funny the first time you hear it, not so much the third or fourth.
Also along are The New Main Street Singers, a squeaky clean bunch who have little if anything to do with the original Main Street Singers. Their connection is the descendant of one member (John Michael Higgins), whose wife, a former porn star (Jane Lynch), is also in the group. The new band is the brainchild of one of the original members and the spectacularly crass sitcom actor-turned-agent Mike LaFontaine (Willard), whose fifteen minutes of fame ended about fourteen minutes early and, judging by his collection of catch phrases, it appears that was about fifty-nine seconds too late.
The real attraction is the possible reunion of Mitch and Mickey, the former “first couple of folk music.” The only question whether or not Mickey can be coaxed out of seclusion for the show. When their professional and romantic relationship ended back in the seventies, Mickey went into what could only be described as a psychological death spiral. When he finally does appear, it’s obvious that it’s taken many years of medication and probably shock therapy to make him semi-functional again. Even when he does emerge from hiding, there is real suspense as to whether he will completely freak out and bolt. The other lingering question is whether Mitch’s husband will notice that his wife still has eyes for her nearly catatonic ex-partner.
The movie culminates is a concert produced for public television by Lars Olfsen (Ed Begley, Jr.), who appears to have a great deal of pride in his Swedish/Jewish heritage. Meanwhile, the fussy show business neophyte Jonathan Steinbloom is driving the theater owner (Michael Hitchcock) to the point of homicide.
Again, the Mitch and Mickey story dominates while the music is not nearly incompetent enough to be a source of humor. There is nothing wrong with this except if you came in expecting another Best in Show. The performances are excellent and the characters richly observed, but the movie succeeds mostly in being a sad but heartwarming love story, a mortal sin if you’re trying to be a comedy.