Comfortable and Furious

Best in Show (2000)


The first time I saw Best in Show I enjoyed the film, but didn’t appreciate the quality it achieved with a difficult scenario.  Many films try to create one comic duo and fail miserably, like Dude, Where’s my Car. This film creates five, plus Harlan, and they all work.  Some are better than others, of course.  My favorite is the pair broadcasting the event–this is where the underappreciated Fred Willard turns in a performance that reinvigorated his career, culminating in his recent PSA spots on Hulu.  When all of the duos converge and the film only gets better.

Maybe the film works because things are divided up. I’ve often wondered why it seems to be so much more difficult to make a funny movie than a funny TV show. Perhaps it is because a movie typically relies more on a central protagonist and a comic protagonist usually cannot carry a story and continue to be funny for the duration of a film. But no one character has to carry this film, rather it is carried by the best moments of each of a dozen characters. If each chips in two funny moments you’ve got a very funny movie. In any case, Guest, Levy and the rest of the cast, who actually wrote much of the material through improvisation, deserve credit for making a very good, very funny film.

DVD Extras

The goodies are hit and miss. The twelve deleted scenes are a hit. Its easy to see that they don’t fit in well with the rest of the film, but many rank with its funniest scenes–especially Harlans collection of well, see the DVD. The commentary is a miss. It has some laughs and interesting information, but most of the time it sounds as if Levy and especially Guest are bored and happy to pass the feeling along.

  • Film overall: 7.5
  • Directing: 7
  • Acting: 8
  • Story: 7
  • DVD Goodies: 7
  • Number of times the film made me laugh at people (and dogs) I know: 8
  • Number of beers needed to completely enjoy this film: 3
  • Number of times I paused the movie to do something else: 1


Jonny Sez…

Christopher Guest has himself a little cottage industry going with these mock-u-mentarys. Spinal Tap, Waiting For Guffman and his latest, Best In Show, are all funny movies. None are as good as the first one, though. Not only was Spinal Tap funny, because of the improv and the great actors, (Billy Crystal as a mime Perfect!) but it was brilliant. Best In Show is really funny, but it is never brilliant.

In Spinal Tap, amps go up to 11, which is the best example of irony ever captured by the medium of film. In Best In Show, gay people are funny, middle-class people are obsessive and everything is really irreverent. I have no serious complaints about the movie, which managed to keep me and my roommate laughing pretty much the whole way through. This is noteworthy, because up until Best In Show, the only movie we have ever watched and both liked is Bring It On. But I’m not going to be walking around quoting lines form Best In Show for years to come. Like most of us do with Spinal Tap. There is a very fine line between

Maybe this is because writers Guest and Eugene Levy of American Pie fame just didn’t know the world of dog shows as well as Guest, Reiner, Shearer and McKean knew the world of rock and roll and its sad, sad stars. If you think about, Best In Show could have been about a pumpkin growing competition as easily as it could have been about a dog show. Whereas, Spinal Tap would have been nothing without the Rock’N’Roll metaphor.

The other thing that sort of bothers me is that the with-out-a-doubt funniest scene in the movie isn’t in the movie. Deleted scene #5 for those of you with it on DVD. For those of you with a VCR or watching it on cable, I’m sorry, but you will never get to see what the actual greatest scene is. Deleted scenes #5 has nothing to do with dogs and I think that might be why they cut it out. That scene crossed the line from bust a gut funny to inspired comedic brilliance. I think the problem is that so much of Best In Show is improved that about 40% of what the people on the screen are saying is not funny until the other person reacts to it or catches on to the bit. Some of the stuff, like the two Starbucks across the street from each other, is funny, but not “Ha-Ha” funny. The scene where Scott wants to take eight robes for two nights is just kind of dumb. No one is that gay.

What I am going to do, because I am sort of a lazy bastard and I’ve been drinking and this really hot girl is coming over is, to just rate the movie by the performances of the people in it. This is based on how funny they were in the movie. I might cut it short, cause I really am pretty drunk. Here goes:

  1. Fred Willard – No question the funniest guy in the movie. His scenes never last longer than twenty seconds, so there was never even a chance for him to go stale. The bench-pressing scene is the highlight of the film.
  2. John Michael Higgins – If it turns out that this guy is actually straight, then he deserved an Oscar. Having gay people in comedies used to be really funny, but now it is so par for course that it bores me. Higgins however, plays the part of an over-the-top New York fag so convincingly and with such ferocity that he is almost more frightening than funny. A GREAT performance. I kept kicking my roommate when he came out strutting with the dog. I almost want to walk around like that. Not sure if it is totally queer, or kind of bitchin’
  3. Christopher Guest – While he will never be as good as when he was Nigel Tufnel in the Spinal Tap (I know, I know) Guest turns in a rather inspired performance as a southern fly fisherman/ventriloquist/bloodhound owner who ends up on a kibbutz in Israel. His best scene (Deleted scene #5 on the otherwise not so funny DVD Extras) was cut from the finished movie, but he still almost steals the show. Plus, he has the best dog in the movie, Hubert the really cute bloodhound.
  4. Parker Posie & Michael Hitchcock – These two play an amazingly dysfunctional couple who can’t have sex because of their dog. I think Hitchcock might be funnier, but Parker is so damn hot. I kept blanking out on what she was saying and instead concentrating on how well her hair framed her head. Very cute. Plus, they both had braces, which was silly but OK anyway.
  5. Jennifer Coolidge – The less she said, the funnier she got. Coolidge plays champion standard poodle champion owner Sherri Ann Cabot, a southern voluptuary married to a man three times her age. She is secretly a lesbian and dresses quite obnoxiously. See Bette Middler in Ruthless People. . Whenever she is on screen, other people might be talking, but you are watching her drink champagne through a straw.
  6. Larry Miller – He is only in the movie for a second, but he is hysterical. He is a crisis negotiator who tells Eugene Levy’s character that “everybody jumps.” One of the better scenes in the movie is when he starts to talk his son and Winky the dog down off the roof of the shed.
  7. Ed Begley Jr. – Not sure what he has done since Transylvania 6-5000 but he is good in this one. He plays a ridiculously sympathetic hotel manager. Maybe he is just funny to look at.
  8. Michael McKean – I felt he was sort of walking through this role. He acted well, but didn’t say or do anything too noteworthy. Even his deleted scenes are boring. Which is kind of sad considering this is the man who gave the world, “I just picked up whatever bits of eastern philosophy floated my way.”
  9. Jane Lynch – She played a Lesbian dog handler. That’s funny, right?
  10. Catherine O’Hara & Eugene Levy – It’s probably just me, but I didn’t find these two funny. I think that in my mind Levy tainted himself so badly by doing American Pie II that I cannot look at him with remembering what my own vomit tastes like. Either way, I didn’t like them, their dog or the running gag that the wife was a whore. It was only funny in one scene, and that was because of Larry Miller, not O’Hara. That bit then got old, which is quite an accomplishment in a 90-minute movie.
  11. Bob Balaban – He was in three scenes and only funny in one of them. Maybe he is dating one of the guys that wrote the movie? Yeah, like they’re not gay…