The battling Swans (Michael Hitchcock, Parker Posey) and their neurotic show dog, “Beatrice.”
Folks, this country is going to the dogs.
Hold on….before you accuse me of getting political, let me clarify that the annual Westminster Dog Show at Madison Square Garden kicks off tonight. For the next two days, America will celebrate the finest in dogdom as canine show champs strut their stuff in the ring.
In preparing yourselves for the event, please watch a clever mockumentary from 2000 by director Christopher Guest, the man who wrote the screenplay for This is Spinal Tap (1984), a mockumentary about rock bands; and A Mighty Wind (2003), another mockumentary which makes fun of the American folk movement.
Best in Show follows five entrants in a prestigious dog show. Well….marginally follows them, because the movie is really about the more than slightly insane owners of the five pooches in question:
- Winky, the Norwich Terrier: Owned by Gerry and Cookie Fleck (Second City comedians Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara). The running joke with this couple is that wife Cookie keeps running into men with whom she’s had affairs. It soon appears that she may have slept with just about every male in town!
- Beatrice, the Weimaraner: Beatrice’s owners, Meg and Hamilton Swan (Parker Posey, Michael Hitchcock), are two “helicopter parents” who are smothering their dog into a nervous breakdown.
- Hubert, the Bloodhound: Owner Harlan Pepper (Christopher Guest), owns a fishing store and has a Plan B in case Hubert doesn’t win….he’ll become a cowboy ventriloquist.
- Butch, the Poodle: Butch’s owner, an Anna Nicole Smith lookalike (Jennifer Coolidge) refuses to let her dog into the ring until its lesbian handler (Jane Lynch) has a makeover. By the way, Butch is a bitch (female dog). Get the joke?
- Miss Agnes, the Shih Tzu: Owned by Scott and Stefan (John Michael Higgins, Michael McKean), a campy gay couple who are crazy about old movies. You will laugh out loud when you see how that works out with their dogs.
Given that director Guest works with comic actors well versed in improv, the movie essentially proceeds as a series of improv sketches. Some of the gags are a little dated (the Anna Nicole Smith references may be lost on some millennials), and the antics we’ve seen on YouTube and other media outlets for the last 15 years may make some of the characterizations seem milder and less zany than they were in 2000. Nevertheless, the film is a lot of fun.
A high point is actor Fred Willard, who is cast as one of the commentators at the dog show. Willard has specialized in playing clueless commentators since his days on the 1970’s satirical sitcom Fernwood 2 Night. He is hilarious here, making inane, straight-faced statements about how the show would be improved if they put a deerstalker hat on the bloodhound, or that a picture book with women in wet T-shirts bathing their dogs would be a best-seller.
You can download Best in Show by clicking onto the following amazon.com link:
You can purchase a DVD of this film by clicking onto the following amazon.com link:
Plus: Fred Willard is the single funniest person in this movie. He does a great job of parodying some of the less-than-knowledgeable cohosts one sees in real dog shows.
Minus: Some of the gags (for example, the Anna Nicole Smith reference) are a little dated.
Cast: Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Fred Willard, Parker Posey, Michael McKean, Jennifer Coolidge, Jane Lynch, Ed Begley Jr.
Director: Christopher Guest
Rating: PG-13 (language, sex-related)
Length: 91 minutes