Best in Show

     In this heartfelt documentary, we are invited to witness the dramatic and very personal behind-the-scenes stories of five participants in the prestigious Mayflower Dog Show.  From preparations and journeys to the host city of Philadelphia, through to the final judging,  we experience first-hand the excitement, the spectacle, and the glory that only a proper canine competition can provide. 
   
    The relationships between people and the dogs that own them are also explored.  As the show progresses, the strength of these relationships is tested, and the pressure to excel continues to rise.  When the competition concludes, we are present not only for the cheers that accompany victory, but also for the tears that follow defeat.  In the end, each leaves the show having learned more about their beloved canine companions and more about themselves as well.  We, the audience, are also left pondering our own existence and purpose in this master's plan that is 'Life'.  After all, it's a dog-eat-dog world, every dog has its day, and you know what they say about 'dog' spelled backwards, don't you?      
  
   I've described Best in Show as 'heartfelt and dramatic',  but what I really meant to say was 'insanely funny'... please forgive me and disregard most of what you've just read!  Writer/director/star Christopher Guest, the King of Mockumentaries, is back, and this time he's gone to the 'you know whats'.  To fans of his previous films, it may appear that Guest's choice of subject matter has veered off onto a very unlikely tangent, and, as we all know, appearances are sometimes not at all deceiving.  But that's okay when it works, and Best of Show does!  Along with many of the same funny friends who have appeared in his earlier movies, Guest has created a great piece of mock-Americana.  What This is Spinal Tap did for rock musicians and Waiting For Guffman did for would-be stage performers, Best in Show succeeds in doing for... dog owners?
   
    Like Waiting for Guffman, most of Best in Show's humor comes from the slight exaggeration of basic, human eccentricities.  Be warned: the sudden realization that you may know someone who actually behaves like one of the characters in this film may result in spontaneous and persistant giggle attacks, followed by questions to your friends about what five or six funny lines you just missed while you were busy laughing so hard.  You will then miss five or six more subtle jokes if they attempt to explain, so the only safe way to see this film is to see it alone and never laugh.  Take my advice and live dangerously!  If you have to see this movie more than once to get all the jokes, then so be it.
     
    The entire cast of Best in Show was quite believable, which was actually a bit frightening, but one actor in particular was the best of this show.  That actor is Fred Willard, who plays one-half of the Mayflower Dog Show announcing team.  He plays the less serious half, and his performance is a real tour-de-farce as he glibly points out such facts as, "You know, in some countries, these dogs would be eaten".  What I found most frightening was that this is how I would probably announce a dog show, as well.  
   
    So, if you enjoyed This is Spinal Tap or Waiting for Guffman, then you're sure to enjoy Best in Show.  And you don't have to like dogs either, but it helps!
   
Directed By:  Christopher Guest
Starring:  Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, John Michael Higgins, Parker Posey, Fred Willard, Jennifer Coolidge, Jane Lynch, Michael Hitchcock
  
MPAA: Rated PG-13 (Language)
Running Time:  90 Min.
Review published
January 7, 2001
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