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The owners (and handlers) of five show dogs head for the Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show. A film crew interviews them as they prepare for the trip, arrive at Philly's Taft Hotel, and compete. From Florida come the Flecks: she keeps running into old lovers. A wordless ancient in a wheelchair and his buxom trophy wife who may have a thing for the dog's handler own the two-time defending best in show, a poodle. From the piney woods of N.C. comes a fella who wants to be a ventriloquist. High-strung DINKs feud loudly in front of their Weimaraner. Two outré gay men from Tribeca round out the profiled owners. The dog show brings out the essence of the humans. Who will be best in show? Written by
Before the lights went out and the movie Best in Show began, the representative from Warner Bros. asked the audience two questions: "Any Spinal Tap fans?" and "Any dog fans?" The audience responded affirmatively in both instances, and such began the movie. If you answer yes to both of these questions, this is a must-see movie. If you answered no, you should still see this satirical romp following the actions of the Mayflower Dog Show in Philadelphia. The director, writer and star of Best in Show, Christopher Guest, is no newcomer to fake documentaries. As the lead guitarist in the aforementioned This Is Spinal Tap (1984) and the director, writer and star of Waiting for Guffman (1997), he is perhaps the master of the field, exploring a common theme, as reflected in the Guffman tag line: "There's a good reason some talent remains undiscovered." Guest explores this theme further in Best in Show, looking at ordinary people not mockingly but almost tenderly. You understand the characters' fears and insecurities, and you can only see too much of people you know or yourself in them. More importantly, you like these characters. When Eugene Levy's character Gerry Fleck reacts to his wife Cookie's (Catherine O'Hara) past wild sex life, you know that this is a man who loves his wife and whom his wife loves, despite his huge dorkiness and her having slept with almost every man they meet. "Pookie and I work as a team," he says, and they do, singing in harmony about their beloved terrier. The other characters are as banal and human as they can be; the braces-wearing yuppie couple, played with aplomb by Parker Posey and Michael Hitchcock, take their dog to a therapist because the dog is depressed and angry about having seen the couple in the Congress of the Cow Kama Sutra position. They wax poetic about having been "raised amongst catalogues," extolling the virtues of J. Crew and L.L. Bean, and describe their similarities as loving "soup, outdoors, snowpeas, talking and not talking." These two are perhaps the most caricaturistic and one-dimensional of the characters in the film, but you feel sad for them for their transference of parental instinct onto their woeful dog. Best in Show has its share of comedic highs, most notably, the interplay between Buck Laughlin (Fred Willard), the hopelessly clueless commentator, and Trevor Beckwith (Jim Piddock), the British dog expert. As Buck barrages Trevor with inane and hilarious questions, Trevor brings up the most specific detail about the different breeds and the particular judges. Buck reminds me of my Uncle Bob, the man who doesn't know anything about anything but talks about it anyway, and it's perhaps the funniest part of the movie. This movie is kind to its characters while making fun of them, and the result is hilarity. While I'm curious about the new Tim Meadows' vehicle The Ladies Man, this is the most original and, arguably, the funniest comedy out right now.
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