Behold, the yearly dog parade,
A purebred canine cavalcade,
Where dogs and humans side by side
Will strut their stuff with puppy pride.
Akitas, corgis, Komondors,
So many march upon all fours,
From toys that bring to mind a rat
To mastiffs who could eat a cat.
There goes the Rottweiler and hound,
Content to prance around and round.
And there’s the Yorkshire terrier
Who broke the cuteness barrier.
There’s Marmaduke and Lassie here,
And dear Old Yeller (sheds a tear),
And Hachi, Benji, Beethoven,
With Scooby Doo and Rin Tin Tin.
(I’d say their breeds, but for the young,
Their screen names just roll off the tongue.)
There goes a walking mop on paws,
And poodles barbered…well, because,
And pugs and shar peis that are set
With ugly charm I don’t quite get.
And by each furry quadrupedal
Rival vying for a medal
Walk the humans with concern,
Who reap rewards their pooches earn.
MPAA rating: PG-13
I can’t recall exactly what prompted me to add Best in Show to my list of Blindspots this year, but I’d gotten the general impression that it was a great classic comedy that I’d somehow missed out on until now. Directed and co-written by Christopher Guest, clearly inspired by his time starring in This Is Spinal Tap, this mockumentary about the weird world of dog shows isn’t quite worthy of the blue ribbon I was expecting.
These mockumentary films seem to me an acquired taste, so dependent on improv and awkwardness, and with this film and This Is Spinal Tap being the only two I’ve seen, I don’t think I’ve acquired it yet. My family watches the National Dog Show every Thanksgiving, so I was interested in seeing a comedy built around the backstage drama of quirky competitors. And quirky they are, including an obsessively competitive couple (Parker Posey and Michael Hitchcock), a suburban schmoe (Eugene Levy) and his formerly promiscuous wife (Catherine O’Hara), a pair of gay Shih Tzu lovers (Michael McKean and John Michael Higgins), a backwoods fisherman (Guest), and a trophy wife (Jennifer Coolidge) and her stressed trainer (Jane Lynch).
Through their interactions and direct interviews, we see all of their insecurities, secrets, checkered pasts, and eccentricities firsthand, and while there’s no denying the talent of the cast, the material never rises above mere amusement. Some of the shenanigans, such as Posey and Hitchcock’s fanaticism over their dog’s toy, are actually more sad than funny, and Fred Willard’s role as the dog show’s absent-minded commentator struggles so hard to be constantly funny that he’s sort of annoying instead. (Interestingly, John Michael Higgins would go on to play a similar but IMO funnier announcer in the Pitch Perfect films.)
Yet, even if it could use more belly laughs, Best in Show was still amusing, and, based on my own dog preferences, I was pleased with the eventual winner of the competition. Plus, I did enjoy the large and recognizable cast, which also included Ed Begley, Jr. and Bob Balaban. Best in Show might not have been as funny as I’d hoped, but it did reaffirm something about myself: I’m much more of a cat person.
Best line: (Sherri Ann Cabot, about her decrepit rich husband) “We have so much in common; we both love soup and snow peas, we love the outdoors, and talking and not talking. We could not talk or talk forever and still find things to not talk about.”
Rank: Honorable Mention
© 2019 S.G. Liput
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