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Scott Ventura >> Movie Commentary >> September 2001 >> Best in Show

Best in Show

Movie Commentary by Scott Ventura


Scott's Rating:
5 / 5
Times Seen:
Viewing Dates on Record:
September 2001, May 2003
IMDB Name:
Best in Show (2000)
Christopher Guest
MPAA Rating:
PG-13 for language and sex-related material.

Doggedly Funny

Best in Show is the latest entry in a proud lineage of improvised mockumentaries involving Christopher Guest. Guest cowrote and costarred in This Is Spinal Tap, considered the first of the genre. Ten years later, he co-wrote, directed, and starred in Waiting for Guffman, another demonstration of the potential of letting actors wing it on camera. Now we have Best in Show, with Guest directing, writing, and starring once again. On the one hand, Guest is repeating the same technique with similar characters, but he challenges himself to go in new directions as a performer. On the surface there is a lot of contrast between a British heavy-metal guitarist, a small-town theater director, and a purebred dog enthusiast with a bait shop. Immediately underneath, though, are earnest people with no doubt in their mind that they are doing their best at what they know best. These kinds of characters will always be a source of great comedy, so I don't begrudge Guest and two-time co-writer Eugene Levy. What complaint can I make about one of the funniest comedies in memory?

Best in Show happens to be about dogs, but almost any hobby could qualify for a movie this funny. My time in barbershop singing contests is similar enough that I knew exactly the kinds of frustrations with the highly subjective judging system, the uncertainty, and the grueling preparation. The last-minute bickering and the insincere well-wishing also rang true. The dogs themselves are great sports, acting as a hilarious manifestation of their handlers' personalities.

Good Human, Nice Human

The contest is only the catalyst, though, and provides an excuse to put these wonderful characters on screen. Amazingly, some of the actors are nearly unrecognizable in their guises, and had I not known the cast list in advance, I wouldn't have made the association until the credits. Catherine O'Hara and Christopher Guest both vanish magnificently. No attempt is made to hide genre veterans like Michael McKean, Bob Balaban, and Fred Willard. Willard is at his free-thinking best here, playing the obnoxious television announcer selected to balance the dry commentary of an expert. Larry Miller only gets a secondary scene, but his acerbic wit is marvelous. Parker Posey and Michael Hitchcock are wonderfully antsy and rude in their quest to be a catalog-perfect couple. Most importantly, the cast are all having fun with their characters, and the joy of performance shines through.

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Copyright 2001-2003 by Scott Ventura. All rights reserved.