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Overall Rating
4.11

Awesome: 34.09%
Worth A Look49.24%
Just Average: 12.88%
Pretty Crappy: 0.76%
Sucks: 3.03%

11 reviews, 66 user ratings


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Best in Show
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by EricDSnider

"A worthy follow-up to 'Waiting for Guffman.'"
4 stars

"Best in Show," Christopher Guest's documentary-style peek into the world of dog shows, is a worthy follow-up to the brilliant "Waiting for Guffman," but it lacks the deeper points that made the earlier film work so well.

That said, it should also be noted that when "Best in Show" is funny, it is funnier than anything else in the universe. It's just that, well, it's not always funny.

The story is of several disparate characters who converge on Philadelphia for the 125th annual Mayflower Dog Show. We meet them in their home towns, and then follow them to Philly, where the second half of the film deals directly with the show itself (and, of course, the aftermath).

First we meet Meg and Hamilton Swan (Parker Posey and Michael Hitchcock), a J.Crew/LL Bean catalog-wearing couple who have a number of issues in their marriage, though they prefer to project them on their dog. Then there's Gerry and Cookie Fleck (Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara), who must deal with the fact that before marrying Gerry, Cookie apparently slept with every man on earth.

Next is Harlan Pepper (Christopher Guest), a Southerner who owns a fishing shop and has a good ol' hound dog. Also, he would like to be a ventriloquist. There's a flamboyant gay couple, Scott (John Michael Higgins) and Stefan (Michael McKean), with a precious little shih tzu; their major goal is to defeat two-time champion Sheri Ann Cabot (Jennifer Coolidge), a gold-digging 30-something tart with an outrageously coiffed gigantic poodle.

As with "Guffman," most of the dialogue is improvised, and Guest has a great cast for it. Levy came from Second City, and Hitchcock and Coolidge came from the Groundlings (the two best professional sketch-and-improv troupes in the country, in case you don't follow such things). Guest himself and McKean were in the legendary "This Is Spinal Tap," which of course had a similarly improvised faux-documentary style. (One missed opportunity here: Many fans would love to have seen Guest and McKean improvising together, but their characters don't share the screen for even a moment.)

Levy and O'Hara are terrific as the Flecks, though perhaps the best scene involving them is when they stop to visit an old friend, played by Larry Miller, whose job is talk down potential suicide jumpers. ("They always jump," he says before describing a specific incident in which the person's head was knocked off by a gargoyle on the way down, and that when he hit the pavement, his guts burst out "like they were spring-loaded.")

Posey and Hitchcock do not fare so well with their relationship, as their bickering soon stops being funny and just starts being bickering. The same goes for the gay couple: amusing at first, but so stereotyped as to be unreal.

Just when things are getting disappointing, in comes someone to save the day: Fred Willard, of all people, playing the dog show's color commentator, Buck Laughlin. Buck knows absolutely nothing about dog shows (or even dogs, it would seem), and 99 percent of the things he says are perfectly hysterical. His foil is erudite Trevor Beckwith (Jim Piddock), who keeps a straight face through it all and tries to explain why the owners aren't allowed to put a Sherlock Holmes hat and pipe on the bloodhounds, for example.

It's almost as though Guest knew the film would falter at this point and called in Willard. And he rises to the challenge admirably, firing off one hilarious line after another. Before long, all he has to do is say, "Here's a question, and this might be a little off the subject..." and we're giggling in anticipation. ("How much do you think I could bench press?" is one of his non-sequitur queries for his co-host.)

Where the film falters is in not adhering to its own conceit: a documentary about a dog show. There are "interviews," as well as footage of conversations, but it's far more slick than a documentary would be, with more cameras, and cameras in places they wouldn't (or couldn't) be in a real documentary. It's the sort of thing that will bug film purists, as it makes it seem more contrived, though I admit the average movie-goer may not notice (or care).

More important is the lack of depth among the characters. The film invites comparison to "Guffman" (the entire "Guffman" cast is here, plus several others), so that's what we'll do. "Guffman" was all about characters who were quirky, yes, but who also had an almost tragic dumbness about them: You pitied them while you were laughing. The "Best in Show" folks are funny, for the most part, but that's as far as it goes.

Here's why this is a problem: "Guffman" worked because of the humor of the characters, but also because the community-theater play they were putting on was in itself very funny (because it was so bad). Most people have had some experience with community theater, so they could relate; even if they didn't, though, we all know someone who is passionate about something they suck at. So "Guffman" managed to be specific and universal at the same time, making it potentially funny to everyone.

The actual dog show in "Best in Show," in contrast, is not especially funny, except for Willard's commentary. Furthermore, the number of people who have had direct involvement or interest in a dog show is much smaller than with community theater. Yes, we all know someone who is obsessive about something strange -- dogs, comic books, gardening, whatever -- but since these characters are so superficial, that connection alone is not enough.

In other words, this film will be funniest to those who have actually participated in dog shows. Everyone else will find it extremely entertaining, often hilarious -- but ultimately not nearly as resonating and realistic as its predecssor.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=4475&reviewer=247
originally posted: 06/30/03 03:14:45
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User Comments

11/26/11 joshuaprater1979 Hilarious movie! 5 stars
9/13/10 Philo Skinner (terrier king) Huge laffs 5 stars
5/16/10 tangled just wanted to mention that it was a bloodhound and not a daschund... 5 stars
8/25/09 Agorilla I have watched it so much that it is no longer funny, but I didn't go blind either! 5 stars
6/28/09 budo I know what dog shows are like. HILARIOUS movie! 5 stars
12/28/08 Samantha Pruitt very funny and smart, this was a great movie! 5 stars
9/04/08 Rachel My absolute favorite Christopher Guest. Not for everyone, but a true comedic gem. 5 stars
5/14/08 PAUL SHORTT YOU KEEP WAITING FOR THE FILM TO START. IT NEVER DOES, THOUGH 1 stars
1/29/07 Shari Hilarious - one of my favorite films ever-I show dogs 5 stars
1/13/07 Yoda This is the sort of pretentious nonsense critics praise. 1 stars
4/30/05 Indrid Cold More clever than funny, but still fairly entertaining. 4 stars
2/22/05 Ayla Hapiak It is very bad. If you want us to enjoy a movie please make it more teenagers movies. 1 stars
1/10/05 Mary Schneider This movie, though not nearly as funny as Waitning for Guffman, is laugh out loud hilarious 5 stars
4/26/04 yaser i have seevthis film now 1 stars
1/22/04 Chloe Brody Get her busy-bee!!! 5 stars
11/04/03 R.W. Welch Semi-improv send-up has a unique comic flavor. Willard is a screech. 4 stars
8/09/03 Will Green 'tis a very good film, one I'd reccommend to anyone. If you don't like it, go fuck your dog 4 stars
7/29/03 cohese A truly fun movie. great. 5 stars
7/14/03 Toria This is the funniest movie I've ever seen. I show dogs and this is so true! 5 stars
6/20/03 John Aster Habig this film brings the underestimated genre of mockumentary to new heights great cast 5 stars
6/07/03 earl hoffert my god, fred willard 5 stars
5/31/03 Jack Bourbon Fred Willard: you sir, made me piss my pants! 5 stars
4/25/03 mr. Pink Really great and fun-tastic!! Great perfs and big laughs!! 5 stars
2/01/03 y2mckay Thank god these wackos have dogs, not kids. Hilarious! 4 stars
12/25/02 Charles Tatum Funnier than Waiting for Guffman 5 stars
12/18/02 Adam Parker Posey steals this movie 5 stars
11/22/02 Denise Great flick! I laughed my ass off!!! 5 stars
7/03/02 KMG Parker Posey's character and the husband were SOOOO fucking in need of a reaming 3 stars
6/23/02 blake paker posey did great in this movie!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
5/29/02 Gary A lot of funny elements, but the mockumentary style kills it. 3 stars
2/23/02 LyonHeart Now THIS is a date movie. See it with your dog. Make it a double with My Dog Skip.... 4 stars
2/19/02 Bart Shore Brilliant. If you own a dog, you must see this. 5 stars
1/23/02 Andrew Carden It's Worth A Look Just For The Puppies. 4 stars
1/12/02 Phil M. Afficianado Just about a perfect satire/comedy; was in hysterics in places; the ending rocks 5 stars
12/05/01 Skip Young As good if not better than Guffman. Okay, no Spinal Tap, but one of the greatest comedies. 5 stars
9/04/01 malcolm very good -- not as funny as "Guffman" though 4 stars
8/28/01 That Guy I was rolling through the whole thing. 4 stars
7/05/01 SeStA FUNNY FUNNY FUNNY!!!!! This movie is one of the best comedies of all time.Cool dogumentary! 5 stars
5/29/01 Dan Radu Well done. Almost as good as The Tap. 4 stars
5/24/01 Hi-fuckin-larious The name says it all. 5 stars
4/25/01 Brian the "Spinal Tap" of dog shows. More consistent laughs than "Guffman" 4 stars
4/21/01 viking The funniest dog movie I've seen !!! 4 stars
4/10/01 J.Arcane More curling the side of your lips than laugh-out-loud. 3 stars
3/08/01 gmh Film drags a bit until Fred Willard appears 3 stars
3/03/01 Suzz unfunny and dull 2 stars
2/22/01 Scott It's no "Waiting for Guffman" but it is still fun to see the cast together again. 4 stars
2/12/01 Jake This film certainly had its shining moments. 4 stars
1/30/01 Monday Morning Lotsa yocks. Every character had some laugh-out-loud moments. 4 stars
1/17/01 Bub Pretty damn funny! 4 stars
1/11/01 Matt69 Fred Wilard is a fucking riot, and Harlan Pepper's bloodhound fucking rocks. 4 stars
12/04/00 Izzy This is one of the funniest movie that has passed my eyes...I have to see this movie again! 5 stars
11/21/00 Harlan peanut, brazil nut, macadamia nut, red pistachio nut... 5 stars
11/21/00 Elvisfan It was all right, no big deal, not much that was really memorable 3 stars
11/17/00 Mr. X Characters are believable and real without being caricatures. 4 stars
11/15/00 Sylvia Simon Very funny - Parker Posey is a hoot! If you liked "Waiting for Guffman", you'll like it. 4 stars
11/11/00 kramer Very funny with very bizarre characters 4 stars
11/09/00 Heather It's a light, fun movie with great characters 5 stars
11/04/00 Blubberbot I will see every movie Guest makes. 5 stars
11/02/00 Katsat Great characterization, funny, believable, sympathetic, original. Consistently entertaining 5 stars
10/26/00 bullit17 It's not Guffman, but it's still a darned good movie and a fun time 4 stars
10/22/00 natasha would have been even better if Corky had shown up 4 stars
10/15/00 monumentl it's no Waiting For Guffman, but taken on its' own terms, pretty damn funny 4 stars
10/14/00 gilcarlson hysterical picture, Guest is brilliant 4 stars
10/06/00 matthew it was so funny I wet myself and chewed up my master slippers in glee 5 stars
10/04/00 frank the funniest movie i've seen since BATTLEFIELD EARTH 5 stars
10/03/00 Barron Classic on soooo many levels 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  13-Oct-2000 (PG-13)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  12-Apr-2001 (M)




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