Best in Show is what could only be described as an affectionate mockumentary of the world of dog shows and their occasionally over-obsessed, over-ambitious neurotic and obviously barking mad owners. Co-written, directed and starring Christopher Guest, best known as Nigel Tufnell in ‘This Is Spinal Tap’, this could very much be considered the canine equivalent of Rob Reiner’s acclaimed cult movie, for instead of a rock band behaving badly, instead we have some rather over-obsessed dog owner’s behaving madly. If you will excuse the obvious pun, this is not so much Spinal Tap, as This is Spaniel Yap.
One of the great things about ‘Best In Show’ is that it is played as a straight documentary, and we never get any glimpses of the supposed documentary makers filming the would be champions proud owners and there are no nudges and winks to the camera. Very much as real documentaries do, ‘Best In Show’ follows five different couples from vastly different social backgrounds but all childless, with the exception of the four legged friends, as they seek tp win the title of top dog at the annual Mayflower dog show. It is very much fly on the wall and even though all the characters might be characterised as stereotypical, there is actually very little caricature, which is what makes it immensely funny and if you didn’t know better, you might even believe it was real. There are no cheap jokes that revolve around dog crap and most importantly of all ‘Best In Show’ is consistently funny all the way through.
There is so much to enjoy about this movie. Christopher Guest subtly directs it and it has a sharp and acutely well-observed script. It very much affectionately mocks the owner’s whilst never seeking to either mock man’s best friend or the world of dog shows. In fact I would say that to really enjoy this movie it helps to be a dog lover, you even find yourself laughing because in certain parts you recognise that some of the behaviour exhibited by the neurotic owners is not so different to ourselves with our own furry friends.
The cast of this movie includes no big stars but many familiar faces. For example Eugene Levy, the movie’s co-author, who is previously best known for his role as the emabressing Dad in the American Pie movies appears as the literally two left-footed owner of a Norwich Terrier. His wife is played by Catherine O’Hara (Home Alone, Dick Tracy), who has a somewhat colourful past that seems to include a string of lovers in every bar in every town, much to Gerry’s embaressment. There is also a gay couple played by Michael McKean, another Spinal Tap alumnus and John Michael Higgins (Ally MacBeal) who show shih-tzus and in the case of the latter, camp it up outrageously. Parker Posey (Scream 3) and Michael Hitchcock (Happy, Texas) play neurotic yuppie lawyers and parents to a Weimaraner apparently traumatised after seeing them perform ‘the congress of the cow’ from the karma sutra. Director Christopher Guest (Waiting For Guffman) plays a redneck bloodhound owner who can name every type of nut but tackiest of all is the gold-digging Sherri married to a senile millionaire about to shuffle off this mortal coil played by Jennifer Coolidge (Legally Blonde), who is on the brink of a lesbian affair with the trainer of her beloved standard poodle. Ed Begley jnr even puts in a cameo appearance as a hotel manager. All the actors perform there parts with great subtlety and it is to their credit that many of the lines were apparently improvised.
If ‘Best In Show’ is for the most part a movie that keeps you quietly chuckling, it is also a film that will have you laughing out loud when the contestants finally reach the main event (The Mayflower Dog Show), as commentary for the show is provided in a sports cast style by Buck Laughlin (Fred Willard) who openly flaunts his ignorance of all things canine to comical effect and we are also treated to the sight of Gerry, two left feet ‘n all parading his Norwich Terrier around the show ring. This is a little gem of a movie that I highly recommend.
on 28 June 2002
'Best In Show' is best described as a mockumentary, a mixture of film, non scipted dialogues aimed to achieve the authentic documentary style we familiarise with 'real tv.' Of course, the direction is more comedic than serious, so do not think this is a serious drama about a dog show, instead it is one of the funniest films, excuse me 'mockumnetaries' to date.
Writer and director Christopher Guest, along with Eugene Levy (Waiting for Guffman), are not on unfamiliar territory, as Guest was involved with the writing and acting of 'Spinal Tap' a cult classic that remains fondly in the hearts of many eighties child, who would have to admit 'yeah, we did actually act like that.' 'Best in Show' contains the same amount of research and likeable characters, you may need the right kind of humour to enjoy it, but those who got a kick out of 'Spinal Tap' will enjoy this new outing by Guest and Levy.
The focus point of the film is as much about the characters as the dogs, and the chemistry between both actor and dog is immediately enjoyable and reality plausable. Guest plays the part of bloodhound owner and southern fly fisher and vantriloquist Harlan Pepper. Former high school nerd Gerald 'Gerry' Fleck (Eugene Levy) and Cookie Guggelman Fleck (Catherine O'Hara) plays a promiscuous flirt with a global reputation it seems as they team up as the most unlikely couple and proud owners of a musically tormented terrier 'Winky.' The homosexually hilarious Shih-Tzu owners Stefan Vanderhoof (Michael McKean) and Scott Donlan (John Michael Higgins)are full of on the edge innuendo and doting owners of their pets. Yuppie lawyers Meg and Hamilton Swan (Parker Posey and Michael Hitchcock) are the extremely competitive owners of their psychologically damaged Weimaraner. Sherri Ann Cabot (Jennifer Coolidge) is the bimbo trophy wife and owner of the glamourous and well trained poodle, courtesy of Christy Cummings (Jane Lynch) who perhaps has other motives than a Dog Show. This superb cast of comedians make 'Best In Show' an enjoyable and highly recommended watch.
on 16 November 2001
This film is hilarious. Beautifully observed and broadly comic it's an absolute gem. Scene after scene reduces you to howls of laughter. And just when you think it can't get any funnier then the dog-show itself starts and Fred Willard makes a plausible case to be considered the funiest man on earth - his performance as the dog-show commentator who knows nothing about dogs is peppered with brilliant one-liners. The DVD is also well worth it, you get 30 mins of discarded scenes, discovering many wonderful treasures. This film is pure joy. True, warm, and fantastically funny. Bye it and fall in love!
I already knew going in that I like folk music a lot more than dog shows, anniversary pageants, or heavy metal music, which explains why "A Mighty Wind" remains my favorite of the Christopher Guest mockumentaries, but "Best in Show" certainly has its moments. Dog shows are a great target for satirical skewering simply because you do not have to go too far to accomplish the task since the dogs we see posing and prancing are not like the dogs the rest of us know in the real world. But the dogs are the innocents in this tale, even if they are exposed to the sight of their masters making love. It is the owners who are invited to humiliate themselves simply by being themselves.
The focus point of "Best in Show" is the Mayflower Kennel Club's dog show in the city of Brotherly Love. The script is by Guest and Eugene Levy, but the idea of a scripted film is a misnomer since what is really at play are the improvisational techniques of Second City more than the crafted skits of Saturday Night Live. In the grand plan of such mockumentaries we follow the paths of several dogs and their owners, most of whom will indeed be up for the grand prize:
Harlan Pepper (Guest) and his bloodhound, Hubert (Ch. Quiet Creek's Stand By Me); Gerry (Levy) and Cookie Fleck (Catharine O'Hara) and their Norwich terrier, Winky (Can. Ch. Urchin's Bryllo); the catalog loving Meg (Parker Posey) and Michael Hitchcock (Hamilton Swan) and their sleek but troubled weimaraner, Beatrice (Can. Ch. Arokat's Echobar Take Me Dancing); Scott Donlon (John Michael Higgins) and Stefan Vanderhoof (Michael McKean), a happy gay couple raising twin Shih Tzus, Miss Agnes (Can. Ch. Raptures Classic) and Tyrone (Can. Ch. Symarun's Red Hot Kisses); and airhead Sherri Ann Ward Cabot (Jennifer Coolidge) married to a geriatric millionaire who has hired the lesbian dominatrix Christy Cummings (Jane Lynch) to train a two-time defending champion Rhapsody in White (Brocade Exclamation Ca. Ch. Exxel Dezi Duz It With Pizaz), the Standard Poodle.
The actual dog show is pretty much done straight in terms of what we see out on the floor (seeing Don S. Davis as the Best in Show judge was a treat). The characters might run their dogs around in their own manners, some with more flare than others (i.e., Higgins), but the dogs are trying their best. The same can be said for genial Buck Laughlin (Fred Willard), who is providing commentary on the dog show for the folks watching at home on television. Buck's comments have as little to do with what is actually going on as possible, while commentator Trevor Beckwith (Jim Piddock) tries to bear the errant slings and arrows coming out of Buck's mouth as he steals the last half of the movie.
The climax of the dog show is one of the subtlest jokes in "Best in Show," but if you think about America's affection for the underdog in sporting competitions, even those involving actual dogs, you will get the point. This is perhaps the most subtle of the Guest mockumentaries, which may or may not be saying something. Whether it becomes a personal favorite is going to depend on your affection for dogs as much as it does on your affection for the usual stable of players that Guest has once again rounded up for the festivities.
on 22 May 2006
I'm glad that I watched this more than once over the weekend as after the first viewing I felt that it was a good film but not worth all the hoohaa that most of the other reviewers bestowed upon it. However, as I started to do other things, glimpses of the film kept on creeping up on me, I especially liked the "police negotiator" trying to get his kid down from the shed roof, "I'm going to gouge your eyes out, you freak.." I'm sure is not in any police manual on the planet. On the flip side the couple with the Wiermariner annoyed me so much that I had to mute them. But I watched it again and laughed out loud at the commentator's un-pc remarks, and pretty much every other piece of sparkling dialogue from a cast that were perfectly suited to this type of film. The inside of Christopher Guest's head is a strange and wonderful place indeed!
on 22 September 2001
If you liked Drop Dead Gorgeous, you'll like this one!! A documentary style film which captures a couple of days in the lives of dog-showers. A couple of chuckles at first, but the belly-laughs come thick and fast after the first 20 mins or so. An understated cast and a fantastic script make for a really good nights viewing - one of those fims that you can watch again and again and still find something new to laugh about!!
on 5 May 2004
I have a 1000 words to write a review of this movie.
It can be summed up in just a few.
The funniest docu-movie you will ever see.
Fred Willard is at his best in this movie as are Eugene Leve and Christopher Guest as the bloodhound loving, beach ball collecting ventriloquist.
Demands watching time and time again..
Christopher Guest's 2000 film Best In Show is a side-splittingly hilarious spoof (shot in documentary style) of an American dog awards show and is (along with This Is Spinal Tap), for me, easily the funniest thing I have seen by this outstanding writer of satire. Whilst both his subsequent films A Mighty Wind and For Your Consideration (which, respectively, send-up the folk music scene and the Hollywood awards season) have their funny moments, Best In Show is more consistently funny and showcases a series of top performances from Guest's large company of regular actors. The basic premise for Best In Show follows a series of characters as they each obsessively prepare their pride and joy for eventual participation in the dog show competition, in particular playing on their insecurities, sense of rivalry and, ultimately, ecstatic joy or devastating disappointment, dependent on the competition's outcome.
Guest's film gets off to a brilliant start as married couple Meg and Hamilton Swan (Parker Posey and Michael Hitchcock in two brilliantly over-the-top performances) are being counselled by a psychiatrist as to the effect the sight of their lovemaking has had on their dear Beatrice - OK, so it's relatively easy to guess the scene's punch line, but it is still hilarious when Beatrice's identity is revealed. Posey's other highlight scene is where she is desperately searching for a replacement toy for Beatrice - for her, this is a veritable matter of life and death. The slightly more restrained couple of Gerry and Cookie Fleck, played by Guest's co-script writer Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara, are equally hilarious, with the nerdy Gerry (a man with -literally - two left feet!) being increasingly embarrassed as the extent of his wife's past promiscuity is revealed as she repeatedly runs into previous boyfriends. For me, Guest is slightly less successful in his depiction of the male and female homosexual couples, whose stereotyping (although funny at times) lacks the incisive wit of some of his other characters. Guest himself also appears as the relatively laid-back, but nerdy, would-be ventriloquist Harlan Pepper whose bloodhound has also been entered in the show.
Once the dog show itself gets underway, attention is switched to the TV commentary team, comprising a film-stealing performance from Fred Willard as Buck Laughlin, who, acting as the novice, but aspiring would-be dog expert delivers a series of killer lines ('Look at that cup - I've taken sponge baths in smaller bowls than that'), alongside real expert Trevor Beckwith, played with great deadpan delivery by Jim Piddock.
Although Guest's portrayal of this group of obsessives appears at first sight to be uncompromisingly scathing in nature, it is also possible to detect some (hidden) affection for his characters, with those that are perhaps less extreme in their obsessiveness receiving rather more sympathetic treatment. In summary, a very funny film that is well worth seeing.
on 1 September 2005
If you like Spinal Tap you'll love this mockumentary of a dog show. A funny cast that will make you laugh throughout. I've seen this film so many times now and I still laugh. My favorite though are the couple who take their dog to counselling with them, and keep watch for the dog "freaking out". If you haven't seen this yet you're missing out, so get it now!!
Director and co-screenwriter Guest has been centrally involved with the creation of four of the best "mockumentaries": This Is Spinal Tap (1983), Waiting for Guffman (1996), Best in Show (2000), and A Mighty Wind (2003). The effectiveness of a mockumentary depends on several factors. First, the actors must "play it straight," as if unaware that they are spoofing anyone or anything. Fred Willard (Buck Laughlin), for example, in this film or Leslie Nielsen in Airplane! or as Frank Drebin in the Naked Gun series. Also, the material presented must be THAT close to the original as is indeed true of the music performed in A Mighty Wind. Finally, the objects of ridicule must in some way deserve it (e.g. Bob Balaban as Dr. Theodore W. Milbank III) but the humor must never be mean-spirited. Note Guest's treatment of the fact that Gerry Fleck (played with the straightest of faces by Eugene Levy) has -- literally -- two left feet.
In this film, Guest uses a familiar but effective strategy for the basis of his narrative: Select several individuals and follow their separate journeys to the same destination, in this case a dog show in Philadelphia. Harlan Pepper (Guest) and the Flecks (Levy and Catherine O'Hara) are among among those who have registered their dogs for competition in the annual and prestigious Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show in Philadelphia. Shrewdly, Guest and Levy have co-written a screenplay in which there is a wide and rich variety of people involved. One of the most conspicuous is Sherri Ann Cabot (Jennifer Coolidge), a statuesque and voluptuous bi-sexual, who attends the show with her ancient husband (Patrick Cranshaw), hoping that her poodle "Rhapsody in White" can win again. Sherri Ann is also accompanied by Christy Cummings (Jane Lynch), the dog's trainer/handler and Sherri Ann's lover. Meg and Michael Swan (Parker Posey and Michael Hitchcock) are also there with Beatrice, a Weimaraner who is almost (not quite) as neurotic as they are. Still another interesting couple consists of Scott Donlan (John Michael Higgins) and his life partner Stefan Vanderhoof (Michael McKean) who have entered their Shih Tzu "Miss Agnes" in the competition and expect her to win.
Many years ago, I first saw Fred Willard (with Martin Mull) on the television series Fernwood 2-Night. He recreates essentially the same role (pseudo-sophisticate dimwit) in this film as Buck Laughlin. He and Trevor Beckwith (Jim Piddock) provide commentary throughout the competition. Insofar as Beckwith is concerned, the chemistry between them could not be much worse. However, as a mockumentary requires, Laughlin is oblivious to that...and to just about everything else as he prattles and chortles along. Willard's is a stunning performance. What a treat it would be to eavesdrop on a conversation between Willard's Laughlin and Nielsen's Drebin.
This is film loses nothing even after being seen several times. In fact, I see something "new" each time I see it again. (For me, the same is also true of Young Frankenstein and The Birdcage.) Some of the scenes and some of the characters become even more hilarious. For example, when Scott and Stefan register at the hotel and then begin to redecorate their room, when the Flecks visit one of Cookie's many former boyfriends and his family, and what happens after the Flecks' Norwich terrier "Winky" reaches the final round of competition. Guest cleverly concludes his film by answering the question "Whatever happened to....?" thereby providing an update on each of couples as well as of Harlan long after the competition. If I were judging all of the comedies released two years ago, this would be my own choice for the top prize: Best in Show(Business) Comedy Film 2000.