Folk music numbs me. But the sheer exuberance of A Mighty Wind, directed with mirth and mischief by Christopher Guest, who devised the story with Eugene Levy and let the cast improv the rest, had me begging for more. Just as he used the faux-documentary format to spoof community theater in Waiting for Guffman and dog shows in Best in Show, Guest tweaks folkie foibles with enough bite to skirt being cute, cuddly or condescending.
The plot hinges on a televised Manhattan concert that brings back such forgotten folk icons as the Folksmen (Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer), who haven’t played together in three decades; Mitch (Levy) and Mickey (Catherine O’Hara), a singing duo split by divorce and Mitch’s breakdown; and the Main Street Singers, now revamped as the New Main Street Singers, led by Terry Bohner (John Michael Higgins) and his wife, Laurie (Jane Lynch), a former porn queen. The Bohners believe God is in the details of color coordination, and they soon have mandolin player Sissy (Parker Posey) worshipping pastels.
First among equals in the pitchperfect cast is the team of Levy and O’Hara, who manage to get laughs duetting to “A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow” and break your heart at the same time. Neat trick. As ever, Fred Willard — the memorably uninformed MC in Best in Show — reduces you to helpless giggles as a manager who can’t forget his second of fame as the star of the failed sitcom Wha’ Happened? He keeps repeating “Wha’ happened?” to people who have no idea what he’s talking about. I laughed every time.
That’s the thing about Guest films. They get funnier the more you see them. I’ve seen A Mighty Wind only twice so far. Maybe it is less fresh than Guffman, more strained than Best in Show. Who cares? It’s still a gift from comedy heaven.