Best In Show Review

Spoof documentaries or 'Mockumentaries' effectively cheat the viewer by convincing them they are watching a realistic depiction whilst simultaneously ridiculing the subject. This Is Spinal Tap is the mother of all mockumentaries - hilariously parodying a typical British rock band who are in denial about their fading careers. One of the stars of Spinal Tap, Christopher Guest, unleashed onto the world in 1996 a very good mockumentary named Waiting For Guffman, which told of the town of Blaine, Missouri putting on a pageant; disregarding the fact that the inhabitants are completely talentless! Obviously, Christopher Guest likes this type of genre, as he followed Waiting For Guffman four years later with another equally funny mockumentary - this time using the subject of dog shows as the dehumanising victim.


Best In Show has a typical documentary-style two-act setup. The subject is a Mayflower Kennel Club's Show, sort of an American version of Cruffs. In the first act, we spend time with the contestants during the build-up to the show - at home, at work, together with their dogs. This character introduction is very funny, as it exposes a wide variety of different people with different quirks: Gerry (Eugene Levy) and Cookie Fleck (Catherine O'Hara) are a married couple, even though Cookie seems to have slept with every man alive and Gerry literally has two left feet; Hamilton (Michael Hitchcock) and Meg Swan (Parker Posey), are a young highly-strung couple who seem to blame all of their marital problems on their dog; Harlan Pepper (played by Christopher Guest himself) is a single bloodhound-owner who foolishly believes he has an alternative career as a ventriloquist; Sherri Ann Cabot (Jennifer Coolidge) is a blatant Anna-Nicole Smith woman married to the very-old millionaire Leslie Cabot (Patrick Cranshaw), even if she seems to have a potential lesbian relationship blooming with their professional dog handler Christy Cummings (Jane Lynch). These are just a few of the hilarious characters that inhabit the world of dog shows.

After the film has devoted half of its running time to introducing the audience to its characters, it throws them into the dog show headfirst. It's at the dog show where we meet the funniest, most inspired character of the whole film in the form of Dog Show commentator Buck Laughlin (Fred Dillard). Laughlin is the atypical commentator brought in for a one-off event, despite knowing absolutely nothing other than what is written in his notes in front of him. He's too busy trying to throw in a funny line to the audience or making ignorant remarks as opposed to merely commentating on the action; His relentless glee that a Shi Tzu is mentioned, meaning he can remark on the funniness of the swear word connotations that it brings, is almost pathetically hilarious. Or what about his deliberate attempts to smooth over the fact that he confused the Pilgrim fathers with Colombus during an interview with Dr. Theodore W. Millbank III (Bob Balaban). Indeed, you sympathise with his fellow commentator Trevor Beckwith (Jim Piddock), a bona-fide dog show expert who seems unable to have his interesting comments subverted by Laughlin.


Best In Show is nothing more than a pleasant comedy that forms an entertaining film. Considering the satirical nature of some mockumentaries, Best In Show is quite tame, and never becomes bitter, hard-edged or painful to watch. Christopher Guest's direction is capable enough, and he clearly likes given a sort of improvised dialogue to his actors, which helps to give proceedings a more natural feel. Guest himself is a very good actor, and you'd need a double take to notice that his Harlan Pepper character is created by the same actor who gave such comic verve to Nigel Tufnel in This Is Spinal Tap.

Watching Best In Show, one will laugh and yet one will feel slightly empty at the end. It's a very enjoyable movie, but it needs tightening around some of the less-funny situations. It's no surprises that there are many deleted scenes on the DVD, as the film seems to skirt the surface rather than penetrate deeper on occasions. It's the type of film that will develop a small obsessive following, but will never occupy the higher levels in the league of mockumentaries. When you consider such recent television shows like The Office have brilliantly used the mockumentary genre to help the situation comedy to evolve, Best In Show gives the impression that is hasn't tried hard enough. Despite all of this, it's clearly a funny and watchable effort from a director famous for other, better offerings.



Picture
Presented in anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen, the picture quality is excellent, but this is no surprise considering that Warner Brothers gives excellent transfer to new releases. Virtually free of artefacts and grain (other than the grain that is intended), the transfer exhibits fine colour tones and clear imagery.

Sound
Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, the sound mix is full of clarity and recorded at a good volume, even if the film doesn't suit the full surround setup. Dialogue is mostly mono with a few left/right channellings, and proceedings feel mostly stereo or mono other than a few directional background elements such as crowd noises.




Menu: A bland, static menu consisting of a few promotional artwork images from the film.

Packaging: The usual Warner Brothers snapper casing, with cast ensemble cover artwork and chapter listings printed on the reverse of the snapper.



Extras

Audio Commentary With Christopher Guest & Eugene Levy: A fun if slightly dry commentary to listen to, with director Guest (who knows how to do funny commentaries) and co-writer/star Eugene Levy, more familiar to millions as Jim's Dad in American Pie. The two converse frequently about their experiences on making the film and their improvisational techniques, along with what they cut out of the film. It's always good to have the director's thoughts on a film when he has directed, co-written and starred in it.


Additional Scenes: A very good extra feature, as seventeen deleted scenes are presented here with optional commentary from Guest and Levy explaining why they ultimately failed to make the final film cut. The sequences last for thirty minutes, and are a good bonus to any fan of the film, since at least half of the sequences presented are very funny, and included some alternate endings.

Theatrical Trailer: A humourous trailer, evoking many of the most memorable moments from the film.

Cast & Crew: A brief text list of some of the cast and crew, along with an Additional Actors page which lists three other actors that the first page seems to have forgotten.




Conclusion

A likeable and funny film that is given a good if slightly sparse DVD package. The extras that are included are very good indeed, and the picture and sound qualities of the DVD fully complement the film, making Best In Show a worthy purchase if you are a fan. You'd be advised to rent it first though, as this isn't going to be everyone's type of humour. However, Best In Show is a pleasing comedy winner that ultimately adds nothing new to the genre of mockumentaries. And to think that in some countries these dogs are eaten!

Film
7 out of 10
Video
8 out of 10
Audio
6 out of 10
Extras
7 out of 10
Overall

8

out of 10

Last updated: 19/04/2018 18:02:07

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