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Overall Rating

Awesome: 34.09%
Worth A Look49.24%
Average: 12.88%
Pretty Bad: 0.76%
Total Crap: 3.03%

11 reviews, 66 user ratings

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Best in Show
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Mr. Mockumentary scores again."
5 stars

Can a comedy be biting and generous-hearted at the same time? Any comedy walks a fine line between making its characters laughable and making them laughing stocks; it's the fine line, as someone once said, between clever and stupid.

Christopher Guest, in his films The Big Picture, Waiting for Guffman, and now Best in Show, walks this line so skillfully that you never worry whether your laughter is powered by condescension (as it so often is with comedies you hate yourself in the morning for laughing at).

Guest had an unfortunate career blip a couple years back with the excruciating Chris Farley swan song Almost Heroes, which he directed but did not write (it showed). Best in Show finds him back in his very specialized element: Some people were put here to write poems, some were meant to compose symphonies -- Guest was born to make mockumentaries. Though he didn't invent the subgenre, he has perfected it, starting with his contribution to the hallowed classic This Is Spinal Tap. (Guest showed with The Big Picture that he can score with "straight" narrative comedy, too.) Guest seems happiest when poking a flashlight into obscure, hapless offshoots of entertainment -- Waiting for Guffman's regional-theater troupe, Spinal Tap's on-their-uppers heavy-metal band -- and Best in Show finds him examining dog-show contestants, mainly the humans whose dogs are competing.

Best in Show has a similar arc to 1999's flawed beauty-pageant mockumentary Drop Dead Gorgeous, only without that film's self-consciously "dark" murder plot. Guest wastes no time overplotting; he simply introduces the characters and their shared goal, then watches what happens. To my great relief, there are no sitcom-level conflicts, no backstage quarrels or sabotage between the dog owners (who hardly interact with each other). Guest stays with the specific, disparate people who have all come here to take home the "Best in Show" trophy.

It's Guest's particular genius to come up with a premise, work up a basic blueprint of a script (he developed this one with Eugene Levy), and then cast actors who can improvise and bring their characters above stereotype. Certainly the film has more potential stereotypes than you could shake a squeak toy at. There's the bland Florida couple (Levy and Catherine O'Hara) -- he with two left feet (literally), she with an impressive sexual past. There's the opposites-attract gay couple, a reserved hairdresser (Michael McKean) and an unapologetic flamer (John Michael Higgins). There's an uptight yuppie couple (Parker Posey and Michael Hitchcock) who bonded over their mutual passion for catalogs. There's a trophy wife (Jennifer Coolidge) who seems built out of collagen, and her butch dog handler (Jane Lynch). There's a drawling good-ol'-boy (Guest himself) who dotes on his dachshund.

Yet, uniformly, the cast refuses to let us look down on these people. Like Waiting for Guffman, the movie gets its laughs by letting its people talk and reveal themselves unconsciously. They're silly -- this is a comedy -- but never beyond recognition. Eugene Levy, for instance, endows his geeky character with affectionate self-awareness (just as he did playing the too-helpful dad in American Pie). You expect his left-footedness to pay off, perhaps when he's walking his dog during the climactic show, but despite planting the detail that Levy used to walk in circles due to his left feet, Guest doesn't go for a cheap laugh. Most other comedies would.

Most other comedies also wouldn't find time for Fred Willard, as the show's on-air commentator, who starts off poorly and gets hilariously worse, spiraling off into increasingly irrelevant musings ("How much do you think I can bench-press?" he asks his baffled British co-chair). While the contestants sit or pace in nervous silence, Fred Willard takes over the movie, treating us to one riotous stream-of-consciousness soliloquy after another (his comparison of a defeated dog to a certain baseball icon is worth the ticket price by itself). Best in Show isn't really about the dogs; it's about the goal-oriented humans flitting around the center of this mundane event.

Christopher Guest sees the deep comedy in people obsessed with things most of us would find ridiculous, but he doesn't have the heart to ridicule them for it.

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originally posted: 01/02/07 12:15:16
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User Comments

11/27/11 joshuaprater1979 Hilarious movie! 5 stars
9/14/10 Philo Skinner (terrier king) Huge laffs 5 stars
5/16/10 tangled just wanted to mention that it was a bloodhound and not a daschund... 5 stars
8/26/09 Agorilla I have watched it so much that it is no longer funny, but I didn't go blind either! 5 stars
6/29/09 budo I know what dog shows are like. HILARIOUS movie! 5 stars
12/28/08 Samantha Pruitt very funny and smart, this was a great movie! 5 stars
9/04/08 Rachel My absolute favorite Christopher Guest. Not for everyone, but a true comedic gem. 5 stars
1/30/07 Shari Hilarious - one of my favorite films ever-I show dogs 5 stars
1/14/07 Yoda This is the sort of pretentious nonsense critics praise. 1 stars
5/01/05 Indrid Cold More clever than funny, but still fairly entertaining. 4 stars
2/23/05 Ayla Hapiak It is very bad. If you want us to enjoy a movie please make it more teenagers movies. 1 stars
1/11/05 Mary Schneider This movie, though not nearly as funny as Waitning for Guffman, is laugh out loud hilarious 5 stars
4/27/04 yaser i have seevthis film now 1 stars
1/23/04 Chloe Brody Get her busy-bee!!! 5 stars
11/04/03 R.W. Welch Semi-improv send-up has a unique comic flavor. Willard is a screech. 4 stars
8/09/03 Will Green 'tis a very good film, one I'd reccommend to anyone. If you don't like it, go fuck your dog 4 stars
7/29/03 cohese A truly fun movie. great. 5 stars
7/15/03 Toria This is the funniest movie I've ever seen. I show dogs and this is so true! 5 stars
6/21/03 John Aster Habig this film brings the underestimated genre of mockumentary to new heights great cast 5 stars
6/08/03 earl hoffert my god, fred willard 5 stars
6/01/03 Jack Bourbon Fred Willard: you sir, made me piss my pants! 5 stars
4/25/03 mr. Pink Really great and fun-tastic!! Great perfs and big laughs!! 5 stars
2/01/03 y2mckay Thank god these wackos have dogs, not kids. Hilarious! 4 stars
12/26/02 Charles Tatum Funnier than Waiting for Guffman 5 stars
12/19/02 Adam Parker Posey steals this movie 5 stars
11/22/02 Denise Great flick! I laughed my ass off!!! 5 stars
7/04/02 KMG Parker Posey's character and the husband were SOOOO fucking in need of a reaming 3 stars
6/24/02 blake paker posey did great in this movie!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
5/29/02 Gary A lot of funny elements, but the mockumentary style kills it. 3 stars
2/23/02 LyonHeart Now THIS is a date movie. See it with your dog. Make it a double with My Dog Skip.... 4 stars
2/19/02 Bart Shore Brilliant. If you own a dog, you must see this. 5 stars
1/24/02 Andrew Carden It's Worth A Look Just For The Puppies. 4 stars
1/13/02 Phil M. Afficianado Just about a perfect satire/comedy; was in hysterics in places; the ending rocks 5 stars
12/05/01 Skip Young As good if not better than Guffman. Okay, no Spinal Tap, but one of the greatest comedies. 5 stars
9/05/01 malcolm very good -- not as funny as "Guffman" though 4 stars
8/28/01 That Guy I was rolling through the whole thing. 4 stars
7/06/01 SeStA FUNNY FUNNY FUNNY!!!!! This movie is one of the best comedies of all time.Cool dogumentary! 5 stars
5/30/01 Dan Radu Well done. Almost as good as The Tap. 4 stars
5/25/01 Hi-fuckin-larious The name says it all. 5 stars
4/26/01 Brian the "Spinal Tap" of dog shows. More consistent laughs than "Guffman" 4 stars
4/21/01 viking The funniest dog movie I've seen !!! 4 stars
4/11/01 J.Arcane More curling the side of your lips than laugh-out-loud. 3 stars
3/09/01 gmh Film drags a bit until Fred Willard appears 3 stars
3/04/01 Suzz unfunny and dull 2 stars
2/23/01 Scott It's no "Waiting for Guffman" but it is still fun to see the cast together again. 4 stars
2/13/01 Jake This film certainly had its shining moments. 4 stars
1/31/01 Monday Morning Lotsa yocks. Every character had some laugh-out-loud moments. 4 stars
1/18/01 Bub Pretty damn funny! 4 stars
1/12/01 Matt69 Fred Wilard is a fucking riot, and Harlan Pepper's bloodhound fucking rocks. 4 stars
12/04/00 Izzy This is one of the funniest movie that has passed my eyes...I have to see this movie again! 5 stars
11/22/00 Harlan peanut, brazil nut, macadamia nut, red pistachio nut... 5 stars
11/22/00 Elvisfan It was all right, no big deal, not much that was really memorable 3 stars
11/18/00 Mr. X Characters are believable and real without being caricatures. 4 stars
11/16/00 Sylvia Simon Very funny - Parker Posey is a hoot! If you liked "Waiting for Guffman", you'll like it. 4 stars
11/12/00 kramer Very funny with very bizarre characters 4 stars
11/10/00 Heather It's a light, fun movie with great characters 5 stars
11/05/00 Blubberbot I will see every movie Guest makes. 5 stars
11/03/00 Katsat Great characterization, funny, believable, sympathetic, original. Consistently entertaining 5 stars
10/26/00 bullit17 It's not Guffman, but it's still a darned good movie and a fun time 4 stars
10/23/00 natasha would have been even better if Corky had shown up 4 stars
10/16/00 monumentl it's no Waiting For Guffman, but taken on its' own terms, pretty damn funny 4 stars
10/15/00 gilcarlson hysterical picture, Guest is brilliant 4 stars
10/07/00 matthew it was so funny I wet myself and chewed up my master slippers in glee 5 stars
10/04/00 frank the funniest movie i've seen since BATTLEFIELD EARTH 5 stars
10/04/00 Barron Classic on soooo many levels 5 stars
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  13-Oct-2000 (PG-13)


  12-Apr-2001 (M)

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