Best In Show (12)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner28/02/2001

Three out of five stars
Running time: 90 mins

Frequently amusing comedy - well-acted, but lacking that extra something to make it great.

Writer-director Christopher Guest, aside from being married to Jamie Lee Curtis, is perhaps best known for his role as bass-player Nigel Tufnell in Rob Reiner’s classic ‘mockumentary’ This Is Spinal Tap.

His most recent film as director was the little-seen Waiting For Guffman (direct-to-video over here, but apparently lined up for a belated UK release if Best In Show does well), another ‘mockumentary’ about a small-town amateur dramatics group putting on a show.

For Best In Show, his latest film, Guest has re-assembled the cast of Guffman and come up with yet another mockumentary, or in this case, if you will, dogumentary, about a group of dog-owners preparing for the Mayflower Kennel Club’s dog show.

There is no plot, to speak of. Instead, the film follows five sets of characters as they prepare for the dog show, sometimes using to-camera interviews, sometimes just ‘observing’.

These include: Parker Posey and Michael Hitchcock as an overly neurotic couple whose poor dog is obviously a child-substitute (when we first meet them, they’re attending dog-therapy because their dog apparently caught them having unusual sex).

Then there's Harlan Pepper (Christopher Guest), a fly-fishing shop-owner and bachelor with his beloved bloodhound; Michael McKean (Spinal Tap’s David St. Hubbins) and John Michael Higgins as a gay couple with twin Shih Tzus.

Oh, and don't forget Jennifer Coolidge (Stifler’s Mum from American Pie) as a busty platinum blonde married to an octogenarian millionaire, though apparently closer to the lesbian dominatrix (Jane Lynch) she’s hired to train her poodle; and Gerry and Cookie Fleck (co-writer Eugene Levy – Jim’s Dad from American Pie- and Catherine O’Hara), with their terrier ‘Winky’, who provide one of the films funniest running jokes in that everyone they meet appears to have slept with Cookie!

The scenes were, apparently, largely improvised and frequently changed radically from take to take - at a recent interview during the London Film Festival, Guest claimed to have an extra "58 and a half hours" of extra footage waiting for the DVD release.

As is to be expected then, not all of the jokes work, but there’s more than enough to keep you chuckling throughout, as well as one or two genuine laugh-out-loud moments (e.g watching Guest break into a run alongside his bloodhound; Posey freaking out in a pet store that doesn’t stock the right chew toy for her dog).

All the performances are excellent and, oddly, seem to be both caricatures and yet realistically human at the same time. It’s a testament to the actors that, at the end, you’ll be unsure of who to root for to win.

There’s also hilarious support from Fred Willard as a clueless TV commentator at the show itself - his inane wisecracks are among the funniest things in the movie.

Having said all that, however, there’s something lacking at the centre of the film that prevents it from hitting the great comic heights you feel should be in there somewhere.

Worth seeing, by all means, but ultimately quite forgettable. Not a patch on Spinal Tap then, and it’s also not nearly as funny as Waiting For Guffman, which is well-worth tracking down on video.

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Content updated: 15/12/2017 09:55

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