Last night, as part of our continuing effort to educate our children into the classics, we watched This Is Spinal Tap.
We ordered pizza and ate it off of paper plates while watching, too, because it seemed fitting. You really can’t watch that film with anything remotely healthy in your bloodstream. The conceptual whiplash would kill you faster than the salt and cholesterol ever will.
It would be more dangerous than getting a job as their drummer.
I first saw this film when I was in college, not too long after it came out. The TLA, down on South Street in Philadelphia, was a repertory cinema at the time and every month they came out with a schedule of the various films that would appear, usually for a day, and then be gone. It wedged itself into my brain almost instantly, and among my circle of friends it was required viewing. If you didn’t love that movie, we really didn’t have any idea how to treat you.
It’s surprising how well that film has held up, really. Other than some technological advances – nobody worries about cover art on albums anymore as it is difficult to put a cover on a download, for example, and some of the humor does rest on miscommunications that would be fairly easy to get past if everyone had a cell phone (though what new miscommunications that would create is a whole other issue) – the jokes are pretty much just as funny as they were.
It helps if you understand the musical references from the 60s and 70s, of course, and being able to identify the cameos of actors who were famous thirty years ago is a plus. But neither of those are really necessary to the story or the humor.
It’s a story about some decently talented guys who aren’t nearly bright enough to see just how far in over their heads they actually are but who know, somewhere in the back of their minds, that there is something more to their situation than they can see at that moment, and that never gets old.
The contrast between the seriousness with which they take their craft (the scene were Nigel Tufnel stops scraping a violin across his guitar strings in order to tune the violin springs to mind) and the sheer cluelessness with which they approach the rest of their world (“Hello, Cleveland!”) is the backbone of all sorts of modern comedy. You find yourself repelled by their inability to understand how much they lack and simultaneously cheering for them for pretty much the same reason.
Plus, the movie is a quote machine.
The girls made it all the way through and they seemed to enjoy it. They certainly have a better handle on some of the standard family lines around here than they did beforehand (“it goes up to eleven”).
Parenting: for the win.