From Christopher Guest comes "Best In Show" (IMDb listing), the new "mockumentary" comedy about five couples who travel to Pennsylvania with their show dogs to compete in the prestigious Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show. Guest, who co-wrote, stars, and directs "Show," also pulled the same duty on his earlier neo-classic, "Waiting For Guffman," and also co-wrote and starred as the legendary Nigel Tufnel in Rob Reiner's "This is Spinal Tap." With these kind of credentials, most would expect "Best In Show" to be a biting satire on the insane world of overprimped pooches. Rather surprisingly, "Show" doesn't feature much mockery, just light gags, and as charming as it is, "Best In Show" feels held back compared to the usual all-or-nothing approach to comedy from Guest.
As with the previous Guest films, the cast is a cornucopia of hilarious comedic talent. With a cast list featuring SCTV's Catherine O'Hara and Eugene Levy (who also co-wrote "Show"), "Spinal Tap" co-conspirator Michael McKean, Don Lake, the living legend Fred Willard, Bob Balaban, and Parker Posey, there are a multitude of laughs to be had. Half the fun of "Show" is watching all of the different comedic styles at work. But unlike "Guffman," "Best In Show" has the overwhelming feeling of stillness. It's much too genial a comedy for its own good, often missing opportunities to have fun with the easy target of dog shows. The other approach to take with this material is to lead with the heart and sentimentalize the jokes, but Guest doesn't achieve this either. This leaves "Show" stuck in the middle between smiles and dead air. The biggest laughs in the film are provided by actor John Michael Higgins as a flamboyant gay man who, with his lover (McKean), travels to the dog show with their fluffy shitz-zu. Higgins is an absolute riot and brings down the house anytime he is on screen. When he's gone, his presence is missed and is a good reminder just how lacking the rest of the film is.
In an odd move, Guest gives himself the role with the least laughs. As a dimwitted bloodhound owner, Guest tries hard to find humor in his laid back character, but clocking in at 84 minutes, "Show" is far too short to take the time to find real comic inspiration with each and every character. That's the main problem with "Show," it cannot find its rhythm. The laughter comes fast and furious, mostly because of the cast, but the proceedings are flat. Had Guest and company sharpened their knives for the comedy killing, "Best In Show" might have been more memorable. What we are left with is a funny film that will just get by with a participant ribbon.
Filmfodder Grade: B