As a mockumentary about a parody band of British heavy metal music, ‘This is Spinal Tap’ trusts in comedy that’s based on real life behavior and situations. The lifestyle of rock star glamour and vanity provides the base material. Included are the challenges in creating an album, handling interviews, and intense arguments among band members. American actors pose as the members while director Rob Reiner plays the documentarian who tends to tax them with questions.
The band is Spinal Tap who are facing a steep decline in popularity. They are David (Michael McKean), Nigel (Christopher Guest), Mick (R. J. Parnell), Viv (David Kaff), and Derek (Harry Shearer). In an interview, their history reveals that more than 30 players have worked for the band, some of whom have passed away in mysterious deaths. Currently touring in America, they are juggling several tasks like working on a new album cover, dealing with a new production company, doing interviews, and autographing sessions.
The comedy is founded in their plans many of which are disorganized. Self-ridicule and slapstick comprise the entertainment as the band lets themselves be photographed on and off stage. Their endeavors seem ill-fated throughout. A hotel is unable to sufficiently accommodate them. Stage props are either faulty or incorrect. Shows get cancelled due to lack of marketing funds. At an autograph session, not a single fan appears in attendance. The manager takes blame and believe it best if each band member would give him a boot in the behind.
The band members are showy and bright in 80’s fashion but despite some expected arrogance, they are a tolerable bunch generally speaking. They receive bad news with a degree of acceptable composure. In other words they don’t damage property. Despite their hopeless quest for success, they maintain an enduring spirit. Some of them speak with opaque poetry such as when asked about their historical significance to audiences, one member compares their band to a “preserved moose” in a museum. If they aren’t funny, they are somewhat fascinating.