Speaking of great fictional movie bands, October 23rd saw the release of Jem and the Holograms, based on the 1980’s animated series Jem. Despite the low box office numbers, only time will tell if Jem and the Holograms can be introduced into the pantheon of great movie bands, but they have lots of good competition. Here are just five (of many) fictional groups from movies that are actually pretty good.
Any list of fictional movie bands is incomplete, perhaps even criminally so, without Spinal Tap. Rob Reiner’s 1984 mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap set the bar by which all other films about bands must be judged. It doesn’t hurt that the movie itself is hilarious, but what really makes Spinal Tap so memorable as a band is that they seem so real. Their music, while ridiculous, certainly could be mistaken for that of any number of generic 1980s metal acts; miraculously, though, the fictional Spinal Tap’s music is often better than the music of the bands being lampooned.
Josie and the Pussycats
2001’s Josie and the Pussycats remains, in my opinion, criminally underrated, though a small group of dedicated fans continue to sing its praises. Kay Hanley of the band Letters to Cleo provided the vocals, while Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne wrote the music. The soundtrack to Josie and the Pussycats just so happens to be one of the best power-pop albums of all time, at least in this author’s opinion. The movie lives up to the high bar set by the soundtrack, and it’s actually a whole lot smarter than you’d ever expect a movie based on an old cartoon series to be.
Tom Hanks’ directorial debut That Thing You Do! is one of those movies you can’t help but watch when you stumble across it on basic cable sometime around 3 PM on a rainy Saturday. It’s absolutely delightful and basically the film-equivalent of comfort food. The songs of The Wonders (most notably the title track) were written by none other than Adam Schlesinger, who if you’ll remember from the paragraph above, also wrote the music for Josie and the Pussycats. He’s the guy you call when you want the band in your movie to have songs that actually sound, you know, good. “That Thing You Do!” is an ear-worm and wouldn’t sound at all out of place on the record of a real 1960’s pop-rock group.
The Folksmen (And really any other band featured in A Mighty Wind)
The best way to describe A Mighty Wind is this: This Is Spinal Tap, but with folk music. In fact, this Christopher Guest mockumentary features much of that movie’s cast. Just as in Spinal Tap, the music in A Mighty Wind is both surprisingly realistic and really, really good. The song “A Kiss At the End of the Rainbow,” performed by the duo Mitch & Mickey (Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara), was even nominated for an Oscar. When you watch A Mighty Wind, you may even find yourself getting a little heartbroken that the bands depicted aren’t real (although you can always pick up the soundtrack if you’re craving more).
The 2007 romantic-comedy Music and Lyrics isn’t discussed much these days, but the fictional band PoP! (based on 80’s bands such as Wham!) makes it well worth checking out. The movie stars Hugh Grant, who plays the washed-up lead singer of the band. PoP!’s biggest single was a song called “Pop Goes My Heart” which is nearly indistinguishable from real 80’s music. And guess who wrote it? That Adam Schlesinger guy, again. He’s got the market cornered.
There are certainly more movie bands out there…which ones are your faves? Let me know in the comments below.