Plot: What’s it about?
Once in a while, a movie comes along that is truly original. While Best in Show is a work of fiction, let it be known that the people portrayed in this film are entirely real. Not by namesake, but personality type and lifestyle. Christopher Guest, star of “This is Spinal Tap” and the Director of “Waiting for Guffman”, is back once again as the writer/director/actor. And while the film focuses on several different contestants, each one is unique and will make you laugh that much more. Essentially five different sets of people (or person) are featured throughout. Harlan Pepper (Christopher Guest) is a native of North Carolina, aside from trying to perfect his ventriloquist skills, he also owns and “handles” (the person in the show who literally walks the dog around) his prize Bloodhound. Harland is a simple man and while not that intelligent, he truly believes it’s his dog that will take the coveted title of Best in Show. The Swan’s are featured yuppies of Illinois (presumably a suburb of Chicago). They tell the story of how he was at one Starbucks and she was across the street at the other Starbucks (and in the commentary they tell that this is actually true, there are actually places where two Starbucks are within sight of the other). Both had Mac laptops and so they decided to bite the bullet and ask each other out. What’s so sickening about the two, aside from the fact that they both wear braces, is that they only believe in ordering out of catalogs. J.Crew and Land’s End are the holy grail to the Swan’s, as they also have a dog that they’d like to win Best of Show.
The Fleck’s, Gerry (Eugene Levy) and Cookie (Catherine O’ Hara) are another animated couple who reside in Florida. Gerry was literally born with two left feet, he used to be called “Loopy” because he used to walk in a circle, since then he has straightened out his problem so to speak. Gerry is always insecure because Cookie has had quite the sexual history. It seems that everywhere old boyfriends are popping up and reminding her of their past encounters, which she seems to enjoy as Gerry grimaces more and more. Christy Cummings (Jane Lynch) and Sheri Ann Ward Cabot (Jennifer Coolidge, better known as Stifler’s mom in “American Pie”) own the two time reigning champion, Rhapsody in White. They have the money, resources and the confidence to keep the dog in the winner’s circle. While the handling is Christy’s job, it seems that Sheri’s job is spending her old husbands money and eating junk food (though she still has a great figure). Lastly, there are Scott Donlan (John Michael Higgins) and Stephan Vanderhoof (Michael McKean, another third of “Spinal Tap” among other things). Stephan is a hairstylist and they make the perfect stereotypical gay couple who also have hopes that their pooch will claim the Best in Show. Now this is only introducing the characters, mind you. The movie follows them separately to the show, held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and all the hassle that they must go through to get their mutts in the show. This being a “dogumentary”, the hotel manager is interviewed (Ed Bagely Jr.) as is the organizer of the event and almost everyone in between.
The real humor comes when the show starts and the commentators take over. Buck Laughlin (Fred Williard) is quite possibly the funniest person alive as he is so crude in his comments that Trevor Beckwith (Jim Piddock) isn’t sure to answer him or grimace in disgust. But the two banter throughout the entire show, and as odd as it may seem, they provide the humor for an already funny movie. Buck’s constant stupid questions like “Now take the same dog from China, France and Japan…will they bark the same or will they have sort of an accent?” As they put it in the commentary, “…just when you thought he couldn’t be any stupider”. All of the elements of the movie seem to work together, and without any major stars in the movie, it’s relaxing to just sit back and enjoy the show. While Best in Show may not be up everyone’s alley, odds are that if you liked “Waiting for Guffman” or “This is Spinal Tap”, you’ll like this. I liked this more than Spinal Tap, and haven’t seen Guffman (as of this writing, it’s not on DVD), but I may just have to lower my standards a bit and rent the VHS. Best in Show is something that you’ll most likely watch time and time again, Warner has given it plenty of extras to keep you occupied as well. Highly recommended.
Video: How does it look?
Shown in it’s original 1.85:1 (but I’d say closer to 1.78) ratio, Best in Show is presented in anamorphic widescreen. Being a dogumentary (sorry…documentary), it can be expected that you might have that grainy, hand held look to it. And it does. But this transfer looks pretty darn good. I saw no signs of artifacting, no dust specs or anything that might lead you to believe that this was a sub par transfer. I did notice in a few scenes that there was some pixelation, but the images were clear and sharp throughout. Fleshtones and dogtones were right on the level, and darned if you couldn’t see the eye shadow on Stephen’s face in one of the ending scenes. All in all, it’s yet another testament to the great treatment that Warner gives their titles. This being a new movie, it’s expected to look good, but then again all new movies are and all don’t. This does and it looks great. Make sense?
Audio: How does it sound?
Sporting a Dolby Digital 5.1 track in English and French (wonder if the movie is as funny in French), the sound isn’t quite as impressive as the audio, but it more than serves it’s purpose. I would call it a surround mix, but it does have that added depth that distinguish Digital tracks from their analog counterparts (and I know that even a Dolgy Surround track is technically “digital”, but there’s true digital and then digital). Anyway. The dialogue is clear and clean with no distortion, you can hear all the yelling coming out of Parker Posey’s mouth and all the lisps out of Michael McKean’s. It’s a great track and you won’t want to miss any of the dialogue in this hilarious movie!
Supplements: What are the extras?
Like so many other Warner movies, this comes packed with a feature-length commentary track by Director/Writer/Actor Christopher Guest and Writer Eugene Levy. Though not the most talkative bunch, they sit back and let the movie speak for itself, they do have a lot of information to offer. Apparantely they’ve been planning the movie for quite a while as about five years ago Guest wrote down “Catalog people” for his first inspiration for the film. They offer insight to the film and how much they loved making it and how good it was to work with all the improvisational actors (except Parker Posey who was strictly an actress and not of the improv group). Still, the track is funny especially if you’re watching the movie while you listen…and you should be). There are also seventeen deleted scenes, and I won’t go into extreme detail about them all, but I felt that a number of them shoud have been included into the movie. As cut loose as the film was, some of these scenes were referenced in the movie and it just made sense that they should have been in the film. But part of owning the DVD is getting to see them. And you’ll get more of the same when you view these. Funny. Aside from the theatrical trailer, presented in anamorphic widescreen, you’ll get some cast bios. A good offering for what I think is a great DVD.