To many the name Christopher Guest becomes synonymous with the classic 1984 mockumentary “This is Spinal Tap“. Tap for good reason deserves a place within the pantheon of original and often quotable comedies to have been made during the past thirty years. But to deny a smaller position to the other works of his career would be demonstrably unfair. Best in Show is one such feature that acts not only as a stellar and cleverly written mockumentary film, but also as a bridge for newcomers to familiarize themselves with the witty and often quirky style of Christopher Guest’s writing and direction.
Best in Show follows the adventures of seven individuals who each enter their beloved dogs into the National Mayflower Kennel Club dog show to win the prestigious Best in Show prize. Each character is just about as varied as you can get, from a neurotic gold-digging lesbian, a notoriously effeminate yet charming gay couple, an isolationist bloodhound owner, a lovable yet impoverished working class family and a pair of young, psychotic newlyweds. Each of the characters have their own unique dog, some more obvious than others in the metaphorical sense for certain breeds practically represent their owners but dogs will be the last thing you’ll be thinking of when watching. In typical Guestian fashion the cinematography is created in your basic documentary fashion. No obvious editing cuts for comedic purposes are to be found, nor is there so much as a moment of music in the film apart from the end credits. Guest’s genius is in allowing his select group of personal friends feed their ego’s into the characters they’re playing to glorious effect!
Similar in pacing and tone to the first of his collaborative comedies, Waiting for Guffman (1996), Show takes a formula pioneered by Guest and Tap director Rob Reiner, whilst placing it within the competitively fueled arena of maniacal dog lovers in a Crufts-like environment. The supporting cast of minor characters act as a phonetic glue for much of the wonderfully quirky dialogue that is spoken by pro’s such as Michael McKean and Eugene Levy (at least when he’s not doing an American Pie feature). The usage of inter-cutting between each couple during and after their trip to the dog show helps to keep the comedic momentum alive as the ego’s of each character begin to make themselves more present throughout.
For those who have not yet had the chance to watch the 84′ comedic classic that is Spinal Tap I would recommend you find a copy immediately. But, if there is anyone not in the mood to witness the disastrously hysterical breakdown of an aging glam-rock band then the softer, much more meditative writing of Best in Show that still keeps Tap’s charm alive may just be for you. Certainly the other collaborations that Guest has produced since his 2000 release, “A Mighty Wind” (2003) and “For Your Consideration” (2006) are equally amusing and often contain the same level of deft comedy required to pull the entire project off. But only Show has been able to keep its charm as a solo project without needing itself to remind you of its place within the director’s filmography. A stand out piece of quirky American comedy that does not have to subject itself to an A-list celebrity cameo or fart joke, one to definitely watch if found!