Views & Reviews From Writer Steve Miller
Formerly Reviews and Stuff at Rotten Tomatoes, 2005 - 2009.

Currently Showing at Cinema Steve

Friday, August 27, 2010

'Best in Show' is among
the best mockumentaries

Best In Show (2000)
Starring: Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Catherine O'Hara, Fred Willard, Eugene Levy, Jim Piddock, Parker Posey, John Michael Higgens, Jane Lynch, and Michael Hitchcock
Director: Christopher Guest
Rating: Nine of Ten Stars

I first came across this film while channel-hopping, and I thought I was documentary or maybe some reality show. I was astonished at what I was seeing. Yeah, I know people forget the documentary crew is there as time goes on, but these people pitching a fit in an airport with their dog were almost too much to be true. Then, I started seeing familiar faces, and I realized I was watching a movie from the makers of "This Is Spinal Tap", "A Mighty Wind", and other "mockumentaries." Like the two great comedies I just mentioned, "Best In Show" is a fabulous bit of comedic movie making.

"Best In Show" follows a number of show-dog owners as they take part in the Mayflower Dog Club's "Best In Show" competition, where dogs of all breeds come to compete to see who is the top dog and walk away with the Blue Ribbon. There's the lovable country boy Harry Pepper (Guest) with his bloodhound, the simple Gerry & Cookie Fleck (Levy & O'Hara) with their terriers, nut-case yuppies Hamilton & Meg Swan (Hitchcock & Posey) with their hunting dog, the loving gay couple Scott Dolan & Stefan Vanderhoof (Higgins & McKean), and the airheaded millionare Sheri Ann Ward Cabot along with her trainer Christy Cummings (Lynch). From the trips to the show, through the pre-show party, the show itself, and a wrap-up detailing "where they are now", the film stays solidly grounded in the pretense of being a documentary, never breaking style once.

Several of the actors portray their characters so naturally that it's easy to believe their the real thing, such as McKean as the low-key gay hairdresser and Piddock as the consumate professional dog expert who is stuck doing show commentary with an idiot TV announcer (Willard). Other actors, such as Levy and portray such hapless characters that it's impossible to not feel sympathy for them. Finally, we have naked satires, like Hitchcock and Posey's ever-bickering obnoxious yuppie couple and the aforementioned Willard. The mix of these types of characters interacting and moving through a story more realistic-feeling than any of the previous mockumentaries from this same general crew makes this an engaging and constantly hilarious movie.

The DVD version of the film is also excellent. It's got about an hours worth of excellent additional scenes that weren't in the film. These are all great, previously unseen bits... unlike the dreck that is often present as "extras" on DVDs. These scenes were cut for length, not because they were crap. It's also got a commentary track by Guest and Levy that's actually interesting to listen to, and that sheds all sorts of light on how Guest and his actors make these sorts of movies.

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