Best in Show
What She said:
Oh my, believe it or not, I was still in high school when Best in Show was released. I cannot recall the first time that I saw the movie. I think my family rented it on DVD and watched it together. All I know is that it quickly became a cult classic to us. I know I’m not alone in being a fan of this film. There are oodles of people out there who have latched on to not only this movie, but to the other Christopher Guest mockumentary-style films out there. You see, Best in Show is not completely unique. It’s a whole thing that Guest does when he writes and directs, and often his movies even star the same cast. Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Parker Posey, Fred Willard, and Michael McKean are all regulars in his films, which go all the way back to This Is Spinal Tap in 1984. Best in Show is actually at least the fifth of the Guest movies of this styling, but it is also by far my favorite.
So let me tell you a little bit about the plot of this film and why it’s my favorite one. Best in Show is a fictional insider’s look at the world of elite-level dog shows. It follows around five doggie contenders and their human handlers as they prepare for and compete in the Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show, held in Philadelphia. I think this show is sort of akin to the National Dog Show or Westminster. It’s supposed to be the cream of the crop.
Anyway, we’re introduced to Gerry and Cookie Fleck (Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara), who have the Norwich Terrier Winky; Meg and Hamilton Swan (Parker Posey and Michael Hitchcock), who have the Weimaraner Beatrice; Harlan Pepper (Christopher Guest) who has the Bloodhound Hubert; Sherri Ann and Leslie Ward Cabot, and trainer/handler Christy Cummings (Jennifer Coolidge, Patrick Cranshaw, and Jane Lynch), who have the Standard Poodle Rhapsody in White; and Scott Donlan and Stefan Vanderhoof (John Michael Higgins and Michael McKean), who have the Shih Tzu Miss Agnes. It’s an understatement to say that each of these characters is, well, a character. They are all absolutely hilarious. Gerry Fleck is a super-nerd who literally has two left feet. Cookie was quite a playgirl in her former life, and so she’s continually recognized by men wherever she goes. Meg and Hamilton Swan are neurotic J. Crew-wearing snobs whose dog has emotional issues. Harlan Pepper is a country bumpkin who moonlights as a ventriloquist. Sherri Ann Cabot is a gaudy-dressed socialite who has a secret relationship with Christy Cummings. And Scott Donlan and Stefan Vanderhoof are a stereotypically gay couple whose witty quips will have you rolling on the floor laughing.
As mentioned, the film follows each of the characters in the days leading up to the Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show. Stress levels are high and tempers are flaring. The Flecks seem to be having the worst of luck, and no one takes Harlan seriously. As preparations fall into place and the show opens, we meet our also hilarious commentator team, dog expert Trevor Beckwith (Jim Piddock) and the totally out-of-touch Buck Laughlin (Fred Willard). Most of the dogs actually make it to the finals of the competition, but I won’t tell you who wins. You’ll have to watch to find out. Let’s just say that the competition is heated not everyone makes it out unscathed.
This is one of your more unique movies out there. It’s a true mockumentary--filmed documentary-style but with a fictional script. The movie alternates between shots of the action and sit-down interviews with the characters. Both are pretty funny. The entire movie features well-written dialogue that does not feel staged but is also outrageously funny. Guest and co-writer Levy have taken the time to also weave in awkward, yet authentic scenarios that add to the levity of the film. What we get to see is genuine, somewhat realistic, entertaining, and well-composed.
The production value is about right for the nature of the film. There’s no need for any crazy special effects or the like--this is just a movie about following around a bunch of people and their high-maintenance dogs. Although the film is now, gasp, 15 years old, I don’t think it really feels that way. It has aged well, and is still just as funny and fresh as it was when it was first released. The acting is also great in this movie. All of those involved are veterans and it comes through that way. They embody their characters in such a way that the viewer can actually believe that they ARE those characters. I get the sense that they may have ad libbed some of their lines, as they feel so natural and in-the-moment.
I had the privilege of watching this movie again with my family during a recent vacation. Do yourself a favor and check it out sometime. It’s a lot of fun and really is genuinely funny. Best in Show is easy to watch and will go by like a breeze.
What He said