October 9th, 2008


Before there was Spinal Tap, there were The Rutles.  Eric (Monty Python) Idle’s fun mockumentary about a Beatles-esque band (dubbed “The Pre-Fab Four”) will be a good time, even if you don’t necessarily like the Beatles.  (Like me.)


Idle stars as a reporter covering the rise and fall of Britain’s number one band.  Dirk, Nasty, Stig and Barry start out playing in clubs before hitting the big time in America.  They begin experimenting with tea, marry incorrigible women (one of whom is a Nazi) and eventually break up. 


Idle deftly captures the Beatlemania era nicely with lots of close-ups of frothing girls.  The best bits though were the spoofs of the Beatles' later druggier stuff like “Tragical History Tour”.  While none of the Rutles are fully fleshed out characters, Idle does get a lot of mileage out of cameos by such Saturday Night Live alums such as Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner and John Belushi. 


What makes the film so memorable are Neil Innes’ songs.  Innes (who also plays Nasty) cleverly avoids outright parodies of the originals and creates a few hummable tunes in the process.  (My favorite was “Get Up and Go”, a fun reworking of “Get Back”.)  There are also a lot of funny cameos by people like Mick Jagger, Ron Wood, Paul Simon and even George Harrison that adds to the fun.


The humor is a bit hit-and-miss but there are enough laugh out loud moments to make it worthwhile.  (I especially liked the scene that took place on the “banks” of the Mississippi.)  A sequel, The Rutles 2:  Can’t Buy Me Lunch followed 22 years later.