Given the depths to which his post-Python career has sunk (An Alan Smithee Film, Splitting Heirs, Dudley Do-Right), it's no surprise that the past few years have found Eric Idle revisiting past triumphs. First came Monty Python's 30th anniversary, followed by last year's depressing "Eric Idle Exploits Monty Python" tour, an exercise in fruitless nostalgia that did little but detract from the troupe's rich comic legacy. Now comes the DVD of Idle's biggest post-Python success, The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash, an extras-filled disc marred only by mentions of plans to film a sequel. One of the first mockumentaries, The Rutles takes satirical aim at The Beatles through the story of The Rutles, whose journey through the '60s travels the same fabled arc as a certain well-known Liverpool foursome. In The Beatles, Idle and company find a ripe, juicy target for parody, and they make the most of it, riotously lampooning every nook and cranny of the band's legacy, from the speed-fueled rawness of its humble beginnings to the disillusionment and bitterness that preceded its breakup. Contrary to Idle's claims on the disc, The Rutles wasn't the first mockumentary (David Holzman's Diary preceded it by a decade), but it makes satirical use of documentary conventions like few films before or since, generating huge laughs from matters as mundane as camera placement, editing, and the comic intrusiveness of Idle's narrator. Idle is aided immeasurably by a terrific cast full of British-TV vets and Saturday Night Live cast members, but co-star Neil Innes' original songs are what make The Rutles such an eminently rewatchable classic: They're inventive pastiches that work both as parodies and as catchy, infectious ditties in their own right. Rhino's DVD edition includes a wealth of extras, including Idle's informative, dishy, and trivia-filled commentary track, a song-only option, and a newly recorded introduction. But even without the extras, the pitch-perfect tone and satirical brilliance of both The Rutles and Innes' music would still invite and reward repeat viewing.
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