Best in Show, by Albert W. Vogt III

Here is a whole sub-genre of film that I do not think The Legionnaire has explored: the mockumentary. The one I am reviewing today is Best in Show (2000), but roughly the same group of actors starred in similarly formatted movies that are presented like documentaries but are meant to be send ups of those more seriously minded offerings. Put simply: they make fun of documentaries. This group of actors pioneered it with This is Spinal Tap (1984), a film that follows the fictional title band as they attempt to live the stereotypical rock star life style, and hilariously fail at almost every turn. This was made more popular in the most horrendous way by Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006). It basically took the same concepts as Best in Show and raised them to the most absurd degree. If you are familiar with both movies, hopefully this summary of the latter will demonstrate how it is infinitely better.

It is difficult to describe Best in Show because as a mockumentary there is no discernible plot. There are a bunch of stereotypical characters that are introduced at the beginning. With this being about dog shows, their pets reflect the traits of their owners. The first couple we encounter are Meg (Parker Posey) and Hamilton Swan (Michael Hitchcock), who are meeting with a psychiatrist to discuss the trauma their Weimaraner Beatrice is experiencing after witnessing them having sex. They are the uptight, suburban, L. L. Bean wearing people, so make your assumptions. The film relies a lot on this for its humor, which kind of shows its age. There are other couples, including the gay partners Stefan Vanderhoof (Michael McKean) and Scott Donlan (John Michael Higgins) and their fluffy Shih Tzu Miss Agnes. As it turns out, they are not the only homosexual dog owners. However, we do not find out that Sherri Ann Cabot (Jennifer Coolidge) and Christy Cummings (Jane Lynch) are lovers until their previous champion Standard Poodle Rhapsody in White wins the award for best in its class at the Mayflower Kennel Competition that they all attend. The other straight couple is Cookie (Catherine O’Hara) and Gerry Fleck (Eugene Levy) with their Norwich Terrier Winky, the dog that eventually wins the title award. Their relationship, though, is far from straight as Cookie’s past sexual profligacy keeps coming up with every man they encounter as they travel from Florida to the show in Philadelphia. Rounding out the entrants is the one single person, Harlan Pepper (Christopher Guest), whose Bloodhound Hubert says much of what you need to know about his Southern roots. All their dogs win the award for the best of their breed, except for poor Beatrice whose anxiety boils over on the show floor, but only the diminutive Winky takes home the top prize. As obvious as it might seem from the title, that is really the point of the movie. After this, there are a few more scenes that discusses what each do after they leave Philadelphia. Its all pretty funny.

What is great about Best in Show is its simplicity. It is a mockumentary about a bunch of eccentric people putting their pets into a dog show. They get there, they compete, and they go home. The jokes come from them acting out in ways you would expect from such characters. This may make it sound predictable, but when it came out in 2000 it was fresh. Some of the best lines come from the show’s broadcasters: the clearly more used to regular sporting events Buck Laughlin (Fred Willard) and his partner who is actually taking the proceedings seriously Trevor Beckwith (Jim Paddock). Their jokes playing off one another are still good today, though as you can probably guess based on the brief descriptions just given, they behave in proscribed ways. And that is kind of it. The film does not try to do too much. It is light hearted all the way through and that is why it works.

There is not a whole lot to say about Best in Show from a Catholic angle. Because the homosexuality is so over-the-top, I would just leave it at that comment. If anything, I would be more insulted by the portrayals if I were gay because they are so stereotypical. Actually, there is one brief moment where Catholicism is mentioned, and that is when the announcers talk about one of the judges formerly training to be a priest. Then Buck muses about what could have caused him to leave the seminary. Again, stereotypes. Otherwise, it is nothing vulgar, unlike more recent examples of these kinds of films that will not be repeated at this moment. And any of the movies done by this particular group of actors is worth watching.

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