Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.
USA, 2003. Castle Rock Entertainment. Screenplay by Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy. Cinematography by Arlene Nelson. Produced by Karen Murphy. Production Design by Joseph T. Garrity. Costume Design by Durinda Wood. Film Editing by Robert Leighton.
Christopher Guest and his troupe, that naughty collective of terrific comedians who gave us Waiting For Guffman and Best In Show, have come back to rip apart another American institution, folk music. Following the death of a pioneering folk-music producer, the deceased’s son (Bob Balaban) decides to put on a concert with which to pay tribute to his father. The process of hiring acts for the show proves to be a complicated one, bringing together a singing couple (Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara) who haven’t spoken in decades, a trio (Guest, Harry Shearer, Michael McKean) who haven’t been on a decent label in decades, and a popular group called The “New” Main Street Singers who have completely revamped their image decades after they started.
The actors all perform their trademark improvised scenes with required gusto, but this film is too short and the characters so flat that there is very little enjoyment to be had from it. While there are a few intermittent laughs, the obvious respect that the filmmakers feel for the music they are dealing with is too great to allow them a good parody of what they’re poking fun at (as opposed to dog shows, which they found to be completely ridiculous enough to make fun of without reservation). The only really worthwhile moments come from O’Hara and Levy, who manage to go beyond comedy a few times and really come up with some inspired scenes of a connection once lost and now found again. The terrific songs, which are both hokey recreations of American bluegrass and pretty melodies at the same time, were all written by the cast members, but this film is no Nashville.
Academy Award Nomination: Best Original Song (“A Kiss At The End Of The Rainbow”)