March 17, 1997 12:00 PM

Christopher Guest, Catherine O’Hara, Fred Willard, Parker Posey

Guest, best known as Nigel Tufnel, the profoundly stupid guitarist of Rob Reiner’s 1984 This Is Spinal Tap, returns with his own mock documentary—this time spoofing community theater. Which tells you what a curious movie Guffman is. It is also wonderfully silly. Guffman takes place in a fictional Missouri town called Blaine, famous (but not very) for a rail stop visit from President McKinley, a UFO landing in the ’40s and a footstool factory. To mark Blaine’s sesquicentennial, the town elders turn to Corky St. Clair (Guest), a failed Broadway chorus boy who stages wildly ambitious local productions. (The fire department shut down his live Back-draft.) Corky, a curiously endearing nincompoop, concocts a musical tribute, cast with a handful of residents, including a husband and wife (Willard and O’Hara) who run a travel agency but have never left the state. The big show is hilariously awful yet charming. These folks have no business being on a stage except that it leaves them flush with happiness. Guffman will do the same for its audience. (R)

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