Best In Show

2000, Movie, PG, 80 mins

Review

BEST IN SHOW
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Blue-ribbon acting from both the four- and two-legged performers distinguishes this film, in which writer-director Christopher Guest proves once again just how good he is at ferreting out offbeat subjects (fading metal morons in the classic THIS IS SPINAL TAP, small-town theater productions in WAITING FOR GUFFMAN) and exploiting their satirical possibilities. This time out, Guest uses the mockumentary form to sniff around the insular world of professional dog show competitions, and the result is a winner. Through faux cinema verite interviews, we get the inside scoop and the backstage poop on eight owners and their five top-notch pooches, all of whom have their eyes on the prize — "Best in Show" at Philadelphia's annual (and fictional) Mayflower Dog Show. The proud, anxious and hopelessly devoted pet owners are all played with deft, nuanced comic flair: nerdy salesman Gerry Fleck and his tarty wife Cookie (SCTV vets Eugene Levy, who co-scripted, and Catherine O'Hara), who have a Norwich terrier; uptight yuppie lawyers Meg and Hamilton Swan (indie queen Parker Posey, Michael Hitchcock), whose weimaraner suffers from depression; salon owner Stefan Vanderhoof and Scott Donlan (Michael McKean, John Michael Higgins), who dote on shih tzus Miss Agnes and Tyrone; buxom trophy wife Sherri Ann Cabot (Jennifer Coolidge), who's showing a teased-to-the-roots standard poodle named Rhapsody in White; and long-faced bloodhound owner Harlan Pepper (Guest). Familiar funnyman Fred Willard delivers a hilariously scary turn as Buck Laughlin, the crass half of the dog show's color commentators. The press notes indicate that the actors were given a script outline and encouraged to improvise many of their scenes and dialogue; happily, there are no losing performances — and that goes for the pups, too. leave a comment --Stephen Miller

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