Look what the breeze blew in
If you were around for the big folk music boom of the late '50s and '60s, you probably remember such popular acts as the Kingston Trio, Ian & Sylvia and the New Christy Minstrels (who milked folk into homogenized pop).
You may not remember the Folksmen, or Mitch & Mickey, or the New Main Street Singers (formerly the Main Street Singers), but you will after you see 'A Mighty Wind.' And you'll never forget Mitch Ñ which actually gives you the advantage over poor Mitch himself.
The Folksmen (Christopher Guest, Michael Mc-Kean and Harry Shearer) might have been nearly as big as the Kingston Trio if only their record label had remembered to punch those little holes in the center of the records so people could play them.
And lovey-dovey duo Mitch & Mickey (Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara) might just have kissed off Ian & Sylvia if not for their ugly divorce and Mitch's subsequent and frequent nervous breakdowns.
As for the New Main Streeters (John Michael Higgins, Jane Lynch, Parker Posey and various color-coordinated colleagues), well, they might seem right at home if it's the main street of the village of Stepford.
In the world next door of Christopher Guest's latest mockumentary, these somewhat flickering lights (we hesitate to say dim bulbs) of the folk era take the stage after 35 years to bid a fond adieu to their beloved former manager, Irving Steinbloom, who's gone to that big 'Hungry i' in the sky.
Steinbloom's devoted son Jonathan (Bob Balaban) has only two weeks to get the live televised concert together. Getting Mitch together is another matter. But he just might do it, with Ñ or in spite of Ñ the help of clueless New Main manager Mike LaFontaine (Fred Willard) and hopeless publicists Wally and Amber (Larry Miller and Jennifer Coolidge).
As in 'Waiting for Guffman' and 'Best in Show,' Guest and co-writer Levy find the mock-doc format a perfect vehicle for the improvisational efforts of what has become the Guest repertory company.
In this case, many of the cast members also composed and performed their own songs, including the Folksmen's biggest almost-hit, 'Old Joe's Place,' a sprightly ode to a diner, and the Main Streeters' bouncy 'Potato's in the Paddy Wagon,' the contents of which tend to be drowned out by the group's noisy wardrobe and a performance style that blurs the distinction between perkiness and dementia.
Guest's approach to his subjects remains an affectionate group hug that leaves plenty of room for goosing. However, since this is the most laid-back of the peculiar communities that Guest and company have characterized, the results may seem a bit 'unplugged' in comparison to the previous outings.
There's also the fact that the other characters, funny as they are, tend to pale next to Levy's Mitch, who travels Ñ or wanders Ñ beyond funny to someplace more unnerving. As addled as any drug casualty, Mitch speaks as if his words found their way from brain to mouth via a tenuously maintained trail of bread crumbs.
Levy and his old 'SCTV' cohort O'Hara work so beautifully together that the reunion of Mitch & Mickey sneaks from hilarity to poignancy with surprising ease. It's a mighty windfall for this just-plain-folksy satire.