Best In Show Movie Review

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Just when you thought the mockumentary had mocked everything worth mocking, here comes a new gem of the genre that will have you rolling in the aisles once again.

Up for skewering this time around is the dog show, as Best in Show takes the absolutely inane shenanigans of dog breeders and handlers, impaling their obsession with a caliber of wit unseen since This is Spinal Tap made rock gods look like buffoons.

Not that this is a surprise. Writer/director Christopher Guest wrote and composed the music for Spinal Tap, directed the funny-hmmm Waiting for Guffman, and even starred in the masterful and sarcastic The Princess Bride. His The Big Picture is one of the most underrated parodies -- attacking Hollywood -- of all time. Guest knows comedy, and he is still at the top of his game.

Best in Show owes its hilarity to its script, which gives us the simple premise of pet owners from around the country converging on the Mayflower Dog Show in Philadelphia (you know, where they make the cream cheese). And while the script is stellar, opening with a yuppie couple in group psychotherapy with their depressed Weimaraner, it's the dead-on casting that makes Best in Show so teary-eyed goofy.

With some dozen characters, it's hard to single out any one actor who steals the show, but I'd have to give top honors to John Michael Higgins (the guy who played Letterman in The Late Shift), a screaming queen with a Shih Tzu named Miss Agnes and a straightish "companion" played by Michael McKean. Parker Posey is always a treat to watch as half of the yuppie couple; with their matching braces and testimonials about being so fortunate to be raised "with catalogs," the Starbucks set has never looked more embarrassing.

Guest has a role as a hick Bloodhound-owner cum ventriloquist, and Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara give their best as pathetic, lower-than-white trash Terrier wranglers. (O'Hara's slutty vixen even sticks her name tag right on her chest instead of her top.) Finally there's Jennifer Coolidge (Stifler's Mom from American Pie) as a Philly society gal, Anna Nicole Smith-like in her buxomness and adamancy that her marriage to an octogenarian is filled with love. Who will win the silver cup? Who cares? They're all fall-down funny.

What unfortunately drags Best in Show off its game is the fact that most of these actors have been around the block a time or two in this kind of material. At least a half-dozen of the main players are Second City or Spinal Tap comedy veterans, including Fred Willard's loutish announcer, who wonders on the air why the Bloodhound can't put on a Sherlock Holmes hat and a smoke a pipe. There's just no opportunity to mistake Best in Show for a real documentary -- as some did when Spinal Tap came out, and as many still do with a movie like Dadetown. While the documentary style is intact, these faces are just too familiar to pull that off.

That and a few missed joke opportunities aside, Best in Show has easily gained a spot on my top ten list this year. Maybe not the blue ribbon, but definitely the red.

Bow wow wow.

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Best In Show Rating

" Extraordinary "

Rating: PG-13, 2000


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