Droid defines the Decades best movies – #12 Best in Show (2000)
If there is one genre that’s been in the toilet for the past decade, it’s comedy. It seems all the best comedy writers have absconded to TV Land. From the entire decade, I can think of no more than ten (and that’s being generous) comedy films that are any good, and only two have made my Best Of list. ‘Best in Show’ ranks the highest, and deservedly so. It’s a hilarious look into the lives of a bunch of truly bizarre characters, and each one is funny in their own right.
The story follows numerous characters as they prepare for the Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show and watch as the ‘drama’ unfolds. Gerry and Cookie Fleck (Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara) who can’t escape the past, time and time again, Meg and Hamilton Swan (Parker Posey and Michael Hitchcock) who met at Starbucks (not the same Starbucks. He saw her from the one across the street.), Harlan Pepper (Christopher Guest) who’s also pursuing ventriloquism, Sherri Ann (Jennifer Coolidge) and Leslie Ward (Patrick Cranshaw), clearly modelled after Anna Nicole Smith and J. Howard Marshall II, and Scott Donlan (John Michael Higgins) and Stefan Vanderhoof (Michael McKean), a gay couple who can never have enough kimonos.
Written by Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy, this is one of the most quotable movies in a long time (always my barometer for a great comedy). It’s one of the rare comedies that clicks from the start, with the yuppy nightmares Posey and Hitchcock in therapy with their dog Beatrice, describing how she’s never been the same since she walked in on them performing ‘The Congress of the Cow’, or Levy describing how with therapy, he learnt to walk a straight line (he has two left feet). I love the description by Coolidge of how perfect her relationship with her catatonic husband is. “We both love soup. We both love the outdoors. Snowpeas. Talking or not talking. We could not talk or talk forever, and still find things to not talk about.” Or the yuppy couple stating “We were so lucky to have been raised amongst catalogues.”
But once the show starts is where it becomes truly genius. The introduction of commentator Buck Laughlin (Fred Willard) who is utterly inept and completely inappropriately equipped for the job, much to the chagrin of co-commentator, expert Trevor Beckwith (Jim Piddock). Buck has some hilarious lines, like suggesting costumes for the dogs, such as putting a Sherlock Holmes hat and pipe on a bloodhound to make the show more fun, lamenting the fact that in some countries dogs are eaten or boasting about his bench pressing prowess. It’s a hilarious performance that is also necessary to keep our interest during the show itself.
The mockumentary is difficult to pull off. Guest himself has made four with varying degrees of success, from the hilarious ‘This is Spinal Tap’ and ‘BIS’ to the hit and miss ‘Waiting for Guffman’ and the all miss ‘A Mighty Wind’. Here all the main characters are funny, but also the small roles are funny as well. When Cookie and Gerry stop to visit one of Cookie’s old “friends”, who is a hostage negotiator, he fills them in on a little secret. “They all jump.” Or the Hotel Manager describing how a rock band prompted them to get a credit card imprint on check in. “I’m not sure they realised that there was a toilet IN the room. And roasting a goat, I still don’t understand. Getting the smell out of the drapes was a chore unto itself.” There are amusing little touches that make it even funnier, like the yuppy couple both having braces, or Cookie constantly being recognised by so many men that it would make it tough to be her husband.
As you can see I’ve spent a lot of this review just repeating quotes, which is probably the highest praise I can give to a comedy (plus it’s bloody hard to write about filmmaking techniques in a movie like this). All I can say is that it’s damn funny, and the writing (which was also improvised by the actors) is some of the best comedy writing I’ve seen. And it has Blue in it. You’re my boy, Blue! So if you haven’t seen this I thoroughly recommend it.
The list so far…