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Best In Show
2000 - PG-13 - 90 Mins.
Director: Christopher Guest
Producer: Karen Murphy
Written By: Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy
Starring: Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy, Parker Posey, Michael Hitchcock, Catherine O\'Hara
Review by: David Trier
I don't know why, but I still haven't seen This is Spinal Tap or Waiting for Guffman, so I went into this free screening (I put my name on some list on the Entertainment Weekly website, and they sent me an invite) with absolutely no expectations. The only mockumentaries I had seen were Fear of a Black Hat and The Rutles mocking hip-hop and the Beatles, respectively. It's a weird format for moviemaking, to say the least. The situations can't be too funny because then you lose the sense of reality required to be a documentary, and it can't have too much of a narrative plotline without looking like fiction, so the film relies heavily on character. This is a film that owes almost everything to its cast. They're, uh, funny.

The story follows the lives of five types of dog owners on their journey from their respective hometowns to the Mayflower Dog Show competition. They include an outrageous neurotic yuppie couple (Parker Posey and Michael Hitchcock), a disaster of a suburban couple (Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara), a charming gay couple (John Michael Higgins and Michael McKean), an Anna Nicole Smith-type (Jennifer Coolidge) and her lesbian dog trainer (Jane Lynch), and a simple country fella (Christopher Guest). They all converge at the dog show, one of them wins, the others don't, and everyone goes on with their lives.

The acting in this movie is just terrific. Sometimes the portraits are drawn so clearly that instead of being funny, they're disturbing. The situations can be uncomfortable and although you know it's comedy, you can't help but feel ill sometimes. The yuppies, personifications of everything that's wrong with Starbucks, are really funny, but also creepily familiar, if you've ever used an L.L. Bean catalogue or rented from Blockbuster. Parker Posey is always a joy to watch and Michael Hitchcock delivers a great performance. The suburban couple is also very funny and equally hard to watch. Eugene Levy plays a conservative menswear salesman, a dweeb with two left feet (literally) who tries to hide his embarrassment that his wife (O'Hara) is a complete slut who has slept with almost every guy they run into, including the ever-creepy Larry Miller, who has a great couple of scenes. John Michael Higgins is hilarious as the flamboyant gay man and plays very well opposite comedy veteran Michael McKean (remember Laverne and Shirley?). Jennifer Coolidge and Jane Lynch both play their characters to a tee as well. But the real star, in my opinion (and let's face it, you're at MY website!) is Christopher Guest. Involved in some funny moments, he really isn't as wacky and zany as he is just appealing and interesting. He's the only single dog owner in the group, and the picture Guest paints of this quiet, simple man who just loves his dog, along with Guest's subtle and focused acting, just makes you smile. Might not make you laugh, but it's nice, and actually refreshing.

The movie is well directed. It devotes enough time toward each character without making anyone the star, and it takes its time getting to the finale without being slow and indulgent. The acting direction of basically taking gifted performers, telling them where to start and where to end up, makes for believable and also outrageous performances. Damnit, the movie's just entertaining.
Movie Guru Rating
A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic.
  5 out of 5 stars

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