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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Thursday, September 4, 2014 - Edition No 913 
Reckoning

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BEST IN SHOW

SYNOPSIS:
The big day – the Mayflower Dog Show – is fast approaching as a variety of contestants and their human pets from around the country prepare for the triumphs and disappointments in store. Harlan Pepper (Christopher Guest) is a shop owner with a Bloodhound; Meg (Parker Posey) and her husband Hamilton (Michael Hitchcock) are a young, calmness-challenged professional couple with a Weimaraner; nerdy salesman Fleck (Eugene Levy) and his bubbly wife-with-a-past, Cookie (Catherine O’Hara) have a Norwich terrier; Scott (John Michael Higgins) and Stefan (Michael McKean) are a gay couple with a couple of Shih Tzus; aged moneybags Leslie (Patrick Cranshaw) and his buxom young wife, Sherri Ann (Jennifer Coolidge) own Standard Poodle, the reigning champion.

"Best in Show is a wicked interlude. If you are familiar with Christopher Guest's unique mockumentary style and humour, you'll be pleased to hear that this too has the same of style and format that made This is Spinal Tap and Waiting for Guffman a biting success. But this time, we meet dog lovers and their pets. Or should we say dogs and their pets – their owners. The dogs are pampered pooches of all shapes and sizes while their owners' physical attributes are equally varied and are searingly coloured with audacity and cheek. Dog lover or not, there's something for everyone. Of course the dogs are centre stage, but this off-the-wall glimpse is more about the owners and their peculiarities. It's about the lead up, the arrival, and after life after the show. What a journey it is! Acute observation, biting humour and delicious execution makes Guest's Best a winner. Who can forget the gay couple (John Michael Higgins, Michael McKean – divine) who bring their own décor to the hotel room, while they prance around their beloved Shih Tzus; or the elderly millionaire's trophy wife - her pristine passion for the poodle, Rhapsody In White takes a sharp left turn in the direction of the lesbian trainer. There's the fishing shop owner (Chris Guest, hair a bright shade of ginger), a Bloodhound to drool over (and a ventriloquist doll to boot), while the yuppie lawyers (Parker Posey and Michael Hitchcock, complete with full mouth braces) go beyond the pale with neurotic Beatrice, who needs her squeaking yellow and black bee toy to unbuzz her. (Those hysterical yuppies seem far more neurotic than poor Beatrice, a gorgeous looking Weimaraner, whose only problem seems to be her owners!) Total scene stealers are henpecked salesman Gerry Fleck, his charismatic, spirited wife Cookie (Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara wonderful) and their beloved terrier. Cookie's hundreds of former lovers seem to pop up with unerring regularity at the most unexpected times and in the most unexpected places… Amusing, entertaining and often doggone enlightening, Best in Show is a juicy bone in the journey of doggie-dom."
Louise Keller

"Long on fun but short on narrative, Best in Show would be a marvellous sit-com; it just doesn’t have the legs for a feature film, even at a tight 90 minutes. Boundless energy and invention carry Christopher Guest’s best works, again in evidence here, with excellent performances from all concerned, including the canine contingent. The couples who flaunt their dogs are well observed in juicy caricatures, although they are not so overdone as to be boring after a while – although Eugene Levy, a favourite of mine, comes close. The script manages to combine Guest’s mockumentary style with the structure of a narrative (even though there isn’t one) as it in turn admires and ridicules its characters. This is another slippery area for Guest, who usually manages to retain authenticity with his genuine care for his characters, even when he is skewering them. Here, the control is slipping. It takes all of Guest’s gusto to maintain interest to the end, although the finale of the show itself is a terrific crowd pleaser, thanks in part to the well scripted and performed antics of Jim Piddock and Fred Willard as the commentators. With a central plank of a story and a step back from overstatement – and it would be brilliant."
Andrew L. Urban

"Best In Show arrives as something of a disappointment after Christopher Guest's similarly styled Waiting For Guffman. With most of the "Guffman" cast reunited and the same mockumentary technique employed there's every reason to anticipate more of the same fun but it's a case of diminished returns in this canine-oriented exercise. While there are plenty of smiles as this gallery of oddballs converge on convention city for the big show there is a laziness and obviousness to much of the humour that prevents sustained big laughs. Guest and co-writer Eugene Levy are content to settle on easy targets and there's something slightly mean about the swipes they take at their characters. The fine line between affectionate parody and ungenerous mockery is tipped too frequently to the latter and prevents this gathering our total goodwill in the process. Gags related to stressed out yuppies who have their dog in therapy and the suburban wife with a sluttish past seem like cheap shots and cease being funny after a while. Despite numerous flaws, Best In Show has more than enough moments to warrant a look. Ed Begley Jr is a delight as a sincere hotel manager who arranges alternate accomodation for cash-strapped Levy and O'Hara, Jennifer Coolidge does a funny Zsa Zsa Gabor/Anna Nicole Smith with a lesbian twist as the gold digging wife of an ancient millionaire and Fred Willard scores a handful of big yocks as a television commentator with little knowledge of dog show procedure. While Best In Show is mildly pleasing in the final analysis, Guest may wish to shake his style and stock company up in the future. He has a well trained eye for capturing the absurd in the apparently ordinary but there's a lack of sincerity and genuine affection for these characters that stops it short of the mark it should have achieved."
Richard Kuipers



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 2

BEST IN SHOW (PG)
(US)

CAST: Christopher Guest, Parker Posey, Michael Hitchcock, Catherine O’Hara, Eugene Levy, Bob Balaban, John Michael Higgins, Michael McKean, Jim Piddock, Fred Willard

DIRECTOR: Christopher Guest

PRODUCER: Karen Murphy

SCRIPT: Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Roberto Schaefer

EDITOR: Robert Leighton

MUSIC: Jeffrey C.J. Vanston

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Joseph T. Garrity

RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 12, 2001

VIDEO RELEASE: October 17, 2001

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Home Video







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