Waiting for Guffman

January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

It might be a small town, but Blaine, Missouri has a rich history and as the 150th Anniversary approaches, that history is going to be told and in grand form. A large celebration is planned and at the center of it will be Red, White and Blaine, an original musical written & directed by Corky St. Clair (Christopher Guest). Corky once ventured to New York and did some theater work there, but he now resides in Blaine, where his productions are loved by the locals. His take on Backdraft was very popular and thanks his unique methods, some residents can still feel the heat. As he is so well known in town, his auditions for the musical are swamped, with all sorts of locals wanting to showcase their talents. He chooses a shaky dentist Dr. Pearl (Eugene Levy), a pair of married travel agents in Mr. & Mrs. Albertson (Fred Willard & Catherine O’Hara), a Dairy Queen waitress Libby (Parker Posey), and a car mechanic, Johnny (Matt Keeslar). As he works with his group, he notices some real potential and as such, invites a major critic to the show, who agrees to come. So now the cast & crew have new inspiration, as Mort Guffman will attend the show and if they should impress him, they all could be Broadway bound, without a doubt.

As with the more recent Best in Show, this film was shot in an unusual fashion, as it was a mostly improv production. A thin story was drummed up by director/co-writer Christopher Guest and co-writer Eugene Levy, but the details were left to the cast, with hilarious results. The cast is simply brilliant in Waiting for Guffman and most would return for Best in Show, another smash success for the troupe. This kind of humor isn’t often seen in movies these days, but Waiting for Guffman has smart humor, instead of toilet humor or such. Yes, some lowbrow moments emerge, but on the whole, this is an intelligent and witty creation. The players are able to improv well, never coming off as unnatural in the least, which is highly impressive. Guest is superb in his role as Corky, but Fred Willard, Parker Posey, Catherine O’Hara, and Eugene Levy also shine, with Posey having some of the film’s most humorous moments, if you ask me. There is some sadness within Waiting for Guffman, but it is a natural presence, one that comes from the characters involved. I give this film my highest recommendation and since this disc is terrific also, I think whether you rent or purchase, your money will be well spent.

As director, co-writer, and actor in Waiting for Guffman, Christopher Guest has a lot on his shoulders, but he never falters. I think some might complain that his direction is too simple, but that is needed here, so the focus remains where it should be. If you have flashy pans, angles, and visual tricks, the audience could lose sight of the characters, which would be a very bad idea in a movie like this, to be sure. So no, Guest’s direction is not innovative, but he does things just as he should, to keep the film in focus. As an actor, Guest is superb and really embodies his character, never taking him too far, but just to the edge. You can also see Guest in such films as This Is Spinal Tap, Best in Show, A Few Good Men, The Long Riders, and The Princess Bride. The cast also includes Parker Posey (Party Girl, Clockwatchers), Fred Willard (Silver Streak, Best in Show), Catherine O’Hara (Beetlejuice, Home Alone), and Eugene Levy (American Pie, Down to Earth).

Video: How does it look?

Waiting for Guffman is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. As intended, the image has a low budget, soft look and that enhances the documentary nature of the movie, of course. The print used looks clean however, with minimal debris to be seen and on the whole, this is a terrific visual presentation. The colors look bright, but not too vivid and flesh tones are natural, no errors there. I saw no problems with the contrast either, as black levels are dead on and detail remains high throughout. This is by no means a visual feast of a movie, but this transfer handles the material very well, so fans should be pleased.

Audio: How does it sound?

This movie is a dialogue reliant film from start to finish, so the included 2.0 surround option is basic, but quite effective. You won’t hear much beyond the front channels and even then, not much separation is to be found. But that is due to the material and since this is how the movie should sound, there’s no room for complaints. A few small sparks can be heard, but on the whole, this is a basic, dialogue driven soundtrack. The vocals sound terrific and the other elements are solid too, which is about all you can ask for. This disc also includes subtitles in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French.

Supplements: What are the extras?

I’ve heard some folks complain about the audio commentary with co-writers Eugene Levy and Christopher Guest, but I enjoyed the session. No, it is not a riotous experience by any means, but the two share some insight into the production, as well as some humor. I do think there’s too much silence on this track, but aside from that, this is a more than solid audio commentary, I think. You can also view a selection of deleted scenes, which are often hilarious and of course, optional comments from Levy and Guest can be enable here also. This disc also includes some talent files, production notes, and the film’s theatrical trailer.

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