Dir: Christopher Guest. US. 2000. 90 mins.
Prod co: Castle Rock Entertainment. Worldwide dist: Warner Bros. Exec prod: Gordon Mark. Prod: Karen Murphy. Scr: Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy. DoP: Roberto Schaeffer. Prod des: Joseph T Garrity. Ed: Robert Leighton. Main cast: Jennifer Coolidge, Christopher Guest, John Michael Higgins, Michael Hitchcock, Eugene Levy, Jane Lynch, Michael McKean, Catherine O'Hara, Parker Posey.
Christopher Guest's wonderful new 'mockumentary' will edge his standing beyond the Waiting For Guffman cult a little bit nearer the mainstream. An achingly funny portrait of a prestigious dog-show, Best In Show premiered at Toronto and Warner Bros will open it this week on limited engagements in North America. Glowing word-of-mouth should spread like wildfire and grosses will surpass Guffman's $2.9m (Sony Classics in 1997) in a matter of weeks.
International audiences will respond well; as Guest himself says, it's not about the US dog-show phenomenon, it's about the eccentricities of the people who participate in them.
The film follows dog-owners from around the country as they prepare for the Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show in Philadelphia. There's bickering yuppie couple Michael Hitchcock and Parker Posey and their Weimaraner Beatrice from Illinois, Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara as a Florida couple with their Norwich terrier Winky, fly-fishing shop owner Guest and his bloodhound Hubert from North Carolina; New York gay couple John Michael Higgins and Michael McKean with their Shih-Tzu Miss Agnes; and platinum blonde trophy wife Jennifer Coolidge and her obviously lesbian handler Jane Lynch with their champion poodle Rhapsody In White.
As we follow their trip to Philly and the trials and errors of the show itself, Guest elicits characterisations brimming with detail and pathos from his improvising actors, many of them also in the Guffman cast. The authentic documentary style and format increase the affection and pity you feel for the characters. Adding to the mix is Fred Willard, hilarious as Buck Laughlin, a sports commentator whose clueless remarks about the sport bewilder his British co-host Jim Piddock.