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Arts and Entertainment

DVD Review: Unwigged & Unplugged

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Of the many things for which I am immensely grateful to my dad, maybe nothing has proven more significant than the love of movies he instilled in me at a very young age. My dad took me to see everything. And by that, I mean he took me to see movies as varied as Amadeus and Tomboy (NSFW) and Sophie's Choice and Blame It On Rio (NSFW). And, of course, he took me to see This Is Spinal Tap. Even now -- watching it twenty-five years after the fact -- it is still one of the few, perfect films I've ever seen. Honestly, how could you improve it?

Years later, the stars of Spinal Tap are still trading on the extraordinary goodwill created by that seminal film and much of that is captured in their live concert DVD, Unwigged & Unplugged. Recorded just a few months ago at the Riverside Theater in Milwaukee, the film features Michael McKean, Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer as they banter with the audience, toy with their own legacy and play hits from not only Spinal Tap, but also from their 1992 album Break Like the Wind and their hysterical folk mockumentary, A Mighty Wind.

If you are not a fan of Spinal Tap and Guest's ensuing work as a director, most of Unwigged & Unplugged will zoom over your head as a series of nonsensical quips and non sequiturs. For fans, though, the film feels like nothing less than spending an evening with old friends that you've missed. The concert is an acoustic affair, so all of the Tap metal has been re-imagined. The humor of the material is completely preserved, though. In fact, the lunacy of the lyrics is made all the more clear now that the crunch of electric guitars has been removed.

Aside from the concert footage (all of which is, admittedly, shot with a pedestrian 3-camera setup), there is a decent amount of additional material folded into the concert. We see the debut of Spinal Tap in their original 1979 appearance on Rob Reiner's The TV Show. We also see an early trailer for This Is Spinal Tap which is, astonishingly, almost entirely about cheese rolling. If you want to see a perfect example of how much the film industry has changed, watch this video and marvel at the fact that this trailer was once released to the public.

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I've always judged a concert by whether or not I was ready for it to end. At a bad show, I'll start counting songs and estimating how much longer before it's all over. Unwigged & Unplugged could have gone on for another hour, and I wouldn't have minded. Obviously, much of that has to do with the immense affection I have for Guest and his films (could I have smiled more during "A Penny For Your Thoughts" from Waiting for Guffman?). I'll just close by saying, you know if you are the type that will buy this DVD. If you're wavering, I'd say buy it. It's great.