Waiting for Guffman (Blu-ray)

October 9, 2017 8 Min Read

Review by: Jake Keet

Plot: What’s it about?

Some people are not cut for show business. I am definitely one of those people that could never make it into the industry. In small towns and cities across this country there are local theatrical groups where local actors give it their very best. Chances are pretty good that their performance in a local play will not lead to anything aside from gaining experience. It’s a harsh reality, but very few people have enough talent and luck to make it as an actor, a writer, or a director. Waiting for Guffman is a comedy that focuses on the people that definitely lack the talent to make it. It is a “mockumentary” from Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy, best known for their films Best in Show and A Mighty Wind.

The small town of Blaine, Missouri is celebrating its hundred and fiftieth anniversary. The town is going to have a festival that will feature a parade and a play that celebrates its history by telling the story of the town. To tell the story of the town the city council have enlisted the help of local drama teacher and play director Corky St. Clair (Christopher Guest.) Corky is best known in the town for his musical version of Backdraft that literally made people believe the theatre was on fire. Corky has big dreams of making his play Red, White, and Blaine go all the way to Broadway. To achieve this goal, he enlists several local citizens to act in the play – dentist Dr. Allan Pearl (Eugene Levy,) travel agents Ron and Sheila Albertson (Fred Willard and Catherine O’Hara,) and Dairy Queen employee Libby Mae Brown (Parker Posey.) Corky must overcome small town budgets, casting issues, and a music director that doesn’t quite get the play (Bob Balaban) if he ever wants the play to be reviewed by Oppenheimer Foundation Critic Mort Guffman.

Waiting for Guffman is undoubtedly one of my favorite comedies of all time. If you have seen Christopher Guest’s other comedies (Best in Show, The Mighty Wind) you will feel comfortable with his brilliantly improvised scenes. For his films Christopher Guest makes outlines and describes scenes but allows the actors to improvise the dialogue. This works because he surrounds himself with some of the greatest improvisational actors of all time. Like any comedy it is a little hard to describe in a review. I can only say that it makes me laugh out loud every time I have seen it and I have seen it probably fifteen or twenty times over the years. Christopher Guest as Corky St. Clair delivers one of my favorite comedic performances of all time. Whether it is during an impromptu dance scene early in the film, his plea to the counsel for more funds, or his discussion of his very strange collector’s items, I cannot look at Christopher Guest without laughing. The music in the film is also very well crafted in the absolutely hysterical final act.

If you have never seen Waiting for Guffman you owe it to yourself to laugh this hard. This one has been a long-time family favorite in our household.

Video: How’s it look?

Warner Archive have provided a brand new 1080p HD transfer that was remastered specifically for this release using an MPEG-4 AVC encode. The film was shot in 1.85:1 and is presented in its original aspect ratio. I have owned this film in every single format over the years, beginning with a beaten-up VHS copy. I can say that this is definitely the best this film has ever looked. There is a persistent amount of grain visible that allows the film to retain much better detail than previous releases. The film looks just as good as the day it was released and I did not notice any type of damage to the print. That said, this film has a pretty muted color palette because it was shot on a low budget in the documentary format. For fans, this is a noticeable upgrade in quality but the film is not exactly visually compelling.

Audio: How’s it sound?

This is where this Blu-ray delivers a much more noticeable upgrade over the previous DVD release. Clarity is excellent and dialogue can be heard perfectly throughout the interviews in the film. All of that is similar to the original sound design that is pretty plain Jane. When you get to the final musical numbers is when this disk really shines. The final musical scenes have been given a new life where I could really hear much more of the instruments from the orchestra. The DVD sounded somewhat muddy during the musical numbers, but here they sound so much deeper. This makes an already great film even better.

Supplements: What are the extras?

  • Additional Scenes – Some extra scenes that easily could have been left in. Very funny stuff. These scenes also have an optional commentary by Eugene Levy and Christopher Guest.
  • Audio Commentary – This commentary is fun, but a little bit more dry than you might imagine given the two hilarious people involved. They discuss small details from the writing process and film.
  • Theatrical Trailer

The Bottom Line

Waiting for Guffman is simply one of the funniest comedies of all time. Whenever I think of Corky St. Clair, I can’t help but laugh. If you have never seen it, please check this one out. This Blu-Ray includes the supplements that were included on the previous DVD release. This Blu-Ray has a noticeable uptick in video and audio, but I am not sure if it completely justifies the double dip for those who already own the DVD. If you don’t own it yet, this is the version to own. I have given a perfect score, because I love this film and it has never looked or sounded better. I highly recommend you add this one to your collection. It has some amazing replay value.

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