Best in Show


Pucker up. Harlan (Guest) shares a pre-show moment with his prize bloodhound Hubert.
dir Christopher Guest
scr Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy
with Catherine O'Hara, Eugene Levy, Parker Posey, Michael Hitchcock, Jennifer Coolidge, Jane Lynch, John Michael Higgins, Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, Patrick Cranshaw, Don Lake, Jim Piddock, Fred Willard, Bob Balaban, Ed Begley Jr, Larry Miller
Warners 00/US 4 out of 5 stars
Review by Rich Cline
As a filmmaker, actor-comedian Guest is following in the footsteps of his Spinal Tap director Rob Reiner. Best in Show is an absolutely hilarious comedy about show-dog owners, filmed in the style of a documentary with handheld cinematography and straight-to camera dialog. And like Spinal Tap it nicely balances biting satire with real affection for the subject.

We follow five dogs and their owners on the way to the national championships in Philadelphia. From Florida comes the terrier Winky, owned by Gerry and Cookie (Levy and O'Hara)--a nerd with two left feet (literally) who married the town slut. Chicago yuppies Meg and Hamilton (Posey and Hitchcock) have a Weimaraner named Beatrice who's getting increasingly nervous as her owners bicker and worry themselves into a frenzy. Trophy wife Sherri (Coolidge) arrives with her reigning champ poodle Butch, as well as a rich old husband (Cranshaw) and a very friendly dog handler Christy (Lynch). New York artistes Scott and Stefan (Higgins and McKean) swan in with their fluffy shih tzu Miss Agnes. And redneck fly-fisherman Harlan (Guest) brings his slobbering bloodhound Hubert from North Carolina.

In a word: Brilliant! The writing and direction are dead-on, the humour is dry as a bone (and utterly unhinged at the same time), and the performances are hysterically funny. Posey is the obvious standout as the manic worrywart, while Guest shines way against type (just try to imagine Spinal Tap's Nigel Tufnel while Harlan is on screen). This is one of those films that keeps you giggling for days as you remember priceless scenes and dialog (Posey and Hitchcock's Starbucks courtship, Willard and Piddock's gut-wrenching competition commentary, Higgins and McKean's hilariously camp feng shui). And what makes it so winning is the underlying warmth and some real suspense as the final winner is announced. Definitely one for the video collection.

[themes, language, innuendo] 19.Oct.00 lff
US release 29.Sep.00; UK release 9.Mar.01

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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall