Best In Show Review
By Rob Blackwelder
Mockumentary maestro Christopher Guest -- the driving force behind "This Is Spinal Tap" and "Waiting For Guffman" -- aims his satirical squirt gun at obsessive dog owners in his latest tongue-in-cheek, interview vérité offering, "Best In Show."
Casting a wide net across kitchy Americana, Guest's cameras capture a handful of mildly lunatic canine caretakers as they travel to and prepare for a prestigious dog show.
There's Harlan Pepper (played by Guest), a North Carolina fishing shop owner and the proud papa of a sad-eyed bloodhound he's convinced is psychic. There's cross-eyed, buck-toothed Gerry and trampy Cookie Fleck (Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara), a middle-aged suburban couple with no kids but a pampered Norwich Terrier that is their pride and joy.
Parker Posey and Michael Hitchcock play a competitive pair of high-strung yuppies who take their neurotic Weimeraner to therapy with them. Michael McKean and John Michael Higgins are a gay hairdressing couple with a matching pair of overly coifed Shih Tzus. And then there's the tacky trophy wife (Jennifer Coolidge) of a frail old millionaire who seems strangely drawn to Christy (Jane Lynch), the ego-driven top-notch professional trainer of her large, powder-puffy Standard Poodle -- the dog that has taken home the show's top prize two years running.
The performances are all perfectly tuned high camp, but much of Guest's knack for quirk-based comedy comes from three places: Incidental details (Levy has two left feet -- literally). Turning a spotlight on his characters' foibles (Posey has a panic attack/hissy fit when her dog's chew toy is lost) Or tossing his characters into awkward situations to see if they'll sink or swim.
"I've banged a lot of waitresses in my day, but you..!" declares one of O'Hara's many, many ex-lovers who come out of the woodwork throughout the movie, making wimpy Levy feel quite insecure.
"Best of Show" never goes more than 60 seconds without at least one good chuckle, thanks in part to Fred Willard's obnoxious turn as a play-by-play announcer at the dog show. But the comedy lacks variety and after the same gags are recycled a few times, you may start to wonder if the movie's 90 minute run time might be a little generous.
Still, nobody does this genre as well as Guest, and since most of the cast are returning players from 1997's hilarious "Guffman," a similar exposé about a small town theater production, the writer-director and his stars are comfortable and comical, and they definitely come through with the goods -- even if the goods a little wrinkled and dusty from being packed up for three years.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Friday 20th October 2000
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Production compaines: Castle Rock Entertainment
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Fresh: 104 Rotten: 6
Cast & Crew
Starring: Jay Brazeau as Dr. Chuck Nelken, Parker Posey as Meg Swan, Michael Hitchcock as Hamilton Swan, Catherine O'Hara as Cookie Fleck, Eugene Levy as Gerry Fleck, Bob Balaban as Dr. Theodore W. Millbank, III, Will Sasso as Fishin' Hole Guy, Stephen E. Miller as Fishin' Hole Guy, Christopher Guest as Harlan Pepper, Michael McKean as Stefan Vanderhoof, John Michael Higgins as Scott Donlan, Colin Cunningham as New York Butcher, Fred Willard as Buck Laughlin, Jennifer Coolidge as Sherri Ann Cabot, Jane Lynch as Christy Cummings, Larry Miller as Max Berman, Rachael Harris as Winky's Party Guest