A Mighty Wind courtesy Warner Home Video
DVD Tuesday: Walk Hard, This Is Spinal Tap and A Mighty Wind - I got the music in me!

It's the first day of 2008 and I'm more than a little surprised that the musical biopic parody Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story is tanking so dismally. Make no mistake, I think it's a flawed comedy, but when it's cooking it's flat-out brilliant. And it got me to thinking about one of my favorite music-business send-ups of all time: A Mighty Wind (2003).

I don't inherently love parody, especially not the lazy, bone-stupid kind of parody epitomized by the sorry likes of the Scary Movie franchise. But A Mighty Wind is a worthy successor to the granddaddy of all music-parody pictures, the utterly brilliant This Is Spinal Tap (1984). Which should come as no surprise, given that A Mighty Wind's writer, director and multitalented performer Christopher Guest's résumé goes back to, yes, Spinal Tap.

A Mighty Wind chronicles the staging of a memorial concert in honor of pioneering folk-music impresario Irving Steinbloom that reunites his three greatest discoveries: the relentlessly perky New Main Street Singers; The Folksmen, whose commitment to folk music's political roots was eclipsed by the success of the novelty hit "Old Joe's Place" ("There's a puppy in the parlor and a skillet on the stove/and a smelly old blanket that a Navajo wove.... "); and counterculture sweethearts Mitch & Mickey, who tapped into the romantic longings of a generation with their hit "A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow," but whose tumultuous personal relationship drove her into a bourgeois marriage and him to a nervous breakdown.

The song parodies are dead-on: The musicianship is first-class and the lyrics just a couple of degrees off from the real thing. But what makes A Mighty Wind great is that it simultaneously pokes fun at the earnestness of the folk-music movement while respecting the very real ideals that spawned it.

"A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow" may be filled with airy-fairy imagery ("Oh when the veil of dreams has lifted/And the fairy tales have all been told/There's a kiss at the end of the rainbow/More precious than a pot of gold"), but it's also heart-wrenchingly sincere.

And the performances are flawless: Every single old folkie can both act and sing, and most of them can play an instrument as well. The cast is a who's who of multitalented, improv-trained performers: Bob Balaban as Irving Steinbloom's high-strung son; Ed Begley Jr as Swedish-born public-TV producer and folk-music lover Lars Olfen, whose conversation is sprinkled with yiddishims; Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer and Michael McKean as The Folksmen; Second City alumni Eugene Levy, who cowrote the screenplay with Guest, and Catherine O'Hara as Mitch & Mickey ; John Michael Higgins and Jane Lynch (both of whom appear in Walk Hard) as the leaders of the New Main Street Singers, whose upbeat harmonies and fresh-faced demeanor (let's just pretend we don't know Lynch's cheerful lead singer was a porn star) helped make folk music safe for mainstream radio.

The supporting cast includes Parker Posey, Jennifer Coolidge, Larry Miller and Fred Willard and trust me - not only is there not a bad performance in the bunch, but there isn't one that's less than brilliant. Walk Hard gets the musical pastiches right, but A Mighty Wind nails the characters as well.

A Mighty Wind isn't an obscure film, but I think it's grossly underappreciated; I rewatched it recently, and if anything it looked even more brilliant than when I saw it for the first time.

Things to consider:

Do you think parody is a parasitic form of humor, or does it shine a bracing light on unexamined attitudes and cultural conventions?

What's your favorite mockumentary?

Why is This Is Spinal Tap still so popular, nearly 25 years after it was made?

Send your movie questions to FlickChick.

Hear Maitland on the weekly podcast TV Guide Talk.

See Maitland McDonagh and Ken Fox review this week's new flicks on the Movie Talk vodcast.

Previously in DVD Tuesday:

It's a Wonderful Life
All About Eve
Sweet Smell of Success
Daughters of Darkness
The Crazies
Blade Runner
A Simple Plan
Taxi Driver
Hot Fuzz
Ace in the Hole
Eyes Without a Face
Citizen Kane
La Jetée
Gone in 60 Seconds (1974)
Bob le Flambeur
Near Dark
Perfect Blue
Pan's Labyrinth
Les Girls
The Girl Who Knew Too Much
The Queen
Expresso Bongo
I'm Not Scared
Shocking Grindhouse Double Bill! - Scanners and The Candy Snatchers
Don't Look Now
Casino Royale
The Prestige
13 Tzameti
The Departed
Kiss and Make Up
Kiss Me Deadly
The Long Good Friday
What Alice Found
The Devil's Backbone
The Descent
The Devil Wears Prada
Pandora's Box
The Thief and the Cobbler
Panic in the Streets/Jack Palance Interview
The Pusher Trilogy
Sunset Blvd.
In Cold Blood