Movie Name: Best in Show
Studio: Castle Rock Entertainment
Release Date(s): September 29, 2000
MPAA Rating: PG-13
The famed Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show is coming and all the dog owners are prepping their pooches for the runway…if they can get there first. Winky (the Norwich Terrier), Hubert (the Bloodhound, Miss Agnes (the Shih Tzu), Rhapsody in White (the Standard Poodle), and Beatrice (the Weimaraner) all have a big shot at being Best in Show, but their owners could destroy their chances. Gerry and Cookie Fleck (Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara) deal with Gerry’s two left feet and Cookie’s sexual past, Harlan Pepper (Christopher Guest) has been a hunter for years, Scott Donlan and Stefan Vanderhoof (John Michael Higgins and Michael McKean) have high hopes for their dogs, Sherri Ann (Jennifer Coolidge) and her trainer Christy Cummings (Jane Lynch) have put the money into their dog, and for Meg and Hamilton Swan (Parker Posey and Michael Hitchcock), failure is not an option. The title of Best in Show is up for grabs, and everything hangs in the balance.
Directed by Christopher Guest and co-written by Eugene Levy, Best in Show is Guest’s follow-up to the surprise hit Waiting for Guffman from 1997. The movie was released to critical acclaim and a modest box office return for the limited release.
I love Waiting for Guffman (more than This Is Spinal Tap…I know heresy). I saw Best in Show in the theater and loved it as well, though I felt it wasn’t quite up to the strength of Waiting for Guffman.
Guest and Levy outlined the basic plot of the movie, but most of the dialogue was improvised. This leads to a lot of perfectly timed jokes that seem much more natural. You could argue that the success of Guest’s movie influenced shows like The Office which featured a similar style of storytelling. It works perfectly here since the actors are supposed to be very normal, everyday people…who are slightly off.
The cast really makes the movie. Guest generally returns over and over again to his actors so much of the cast was in Waiting for Guffman and were later in A Mighty Wind. The actors all have perfect timing for jokes but they also really inject their characters with heart to make you care about them. Many critics cited Fred Willard’s announcer Buck Laughlin as the movie’s high point, but I think everyone in the cast plays their parts perfectly.
Docu-comedy really also helps with the film’s timing. If a joke needs a breather, a quick interview can be mixed in and it also quickly allows the characters to be established…an example being Hitchcock and Posey’s Starbucks and Lands’ End story…you know exactly who they are in a couple of minutes.
Best in Show is a great movie and I can see why many like it better than Waiting for Guffman because it is much more accessible…and everyone loves dogs. I feel that Best in Show can also be credited for the rise in popularity of dog shows like the Westminster Kennel Club that seemed to gain more and more traction after the film…and you can see how art imitates life when you check out the contestants and their dogs.