Film Commentary [10-18-00]
Bark like a dog - - Best In Show
Genre: Comedy/mockumetary
Grade = A

Best of Show
Best In Show is the third in a series of films set in a documentary style by Christopher Guest whose previous two films include This is Spinal Tap and Waiting for Guffman. The film opens in a psychologist’s office where Meg and Hamilton Swan (Parker Posey and Michael Hitchcock), two type-A yuppie lawyers, are discussing problems they are having with Beatrice. After a lengthy discussion about how she accidently saw them having sex and hasn’t been the same since, you learn that Beatrice is in fact their high-strung Weimaraner.

Meg and Hamilton, with matching braces on their teeth, are yuppie clothes horses and catalog fanatics, whose favorite game is to take the latest L.L. Bean catalog and try to name all of the new items in less than five minutes. As Meg gushingly puts it, "We are so lucky to have been raised among catalogs!" Meg and Hamilton are but one couple who have entered their pooch in the famed Philadelphia Mayflower Dog Show, the most prestigious dog show in the country. The film follows the Swans and the other entrants of the show from their homes to and through the dog show, where one of them will have their prized pup declared ‘Best of Show’ - the best dog in the country.

Other entrants include Florida couple Gerry and Cookie Fleck (Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara) and their Norwich terrier Winkie. Gerry is a mens fashion salesman who dresses as if it were 1977 and everything came in polyester. Gerry also has a peculiar infirmity, he has two left feet. Literally. His other problem is Cookie, although she seems to be your typical sweet housewifer, she seems to know every man they run across a little too familiarly, leaving Gerry very insecure and jealous. Thereafter we meet Sherri Ann Ward Cabot (Jennifer Coolidge), a Anna Nicole Smith double if she were 45 and had one or two too many face lifts, and her wealthy 99 year old husband Leslie. Sherri owns ‘Rhapsody in White’, a standard poodle who has won Best of Show at the Mayflower for the last two years (and yes, she has those two big buns of fur carved out on her rumps). They have hired professional dog handler Christy Cummings (Jane Lynch), who is obviously a lesbian, to bring home the Best In Show cup for the third year straight.

Others include down home Pine Nut, North Carolina fish and bait store owner Harlan Pepper (Guest) with his bloodhound Hubert, and gay Manhattan couple Stefan (Michael McKean) and Scott (John Michael Higgins) and their Shih Tzu, Miss Agnes.

The first half of the film follows the couples as they prepare for and travel to Philadelphia. Finally, the big show begins and we are introduced to the television announcer for the program - Buck Laughlin (Fred Willard). Unfortunately for the show, Buck is a sports announcer and knows absolutely nothing about dogs. “Would that dog be considered the tight end or the running back in the dog world?” Buck asks his very British co-announcer Trevor Beckwith (Jim Piddick) who knows nothing about American football and who can barely control himself from sneering at Buck.

Harlan Pepper and Hubert

This is an absolutely hysterically funny film. It is filled with on target jokes with the clashing American cultures - the ultra-rich, yuppies, middle-class, New York gays and backwoods fly- fishermen, all of whom are fanatic about their devotion to their dogs. The most sympathetic are the Flecks as ordinary people who just want their dream of having their beloved Winkie winning the show to come true.

The performances of the first half of the film are dominated by Christopher Guest who gives perhaps the most realistic southern accent I have seen in film or television in years, and an Appalachian one at that. It is also a problem as the film tends to focus on his inane ramblings a touch too long. Coming in second is John Higgins as Scott who hysterically out-queens any other limp-wrister around. However, Fred Willard steals the film in the second half with his howlingly funny performance of the inept Buck. Also notable is the performance of Parker Posey as the yuppie woman who is capable of turning into a screaming psychotic bitch at the drop of a hat.

This film is not nearly as biting as Guest’s This is Spinal Tap with which he also starred with McKean, however, this film has more actual laughs. Like Tap, this film is a breath of fresh air in that it is a comedy that is not particularly mean spirited and does not sink to the level of crudity like most of the comedies in recent years. No jokes about bodily functions and the characters actually speak english without every other word being profanity. The film is witty and over the top in its humor while at other times being much more subtle that most people realize.

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