And to think that in some countries these dogs are eaten!
Year Released : 2000
Director : Christopher Guest
Cast : Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Parker Posey, Michael Hitchcock, Christopher Guest, Jennifer Coolidge, Patrick Cranshaw, Jane Lynch, John Higgins and Michael McKean,
One of my favourite satires, Best in Show is a gem and one of the most unique comedies that I have ever seen in my life. Whilst it is slightly better known that most films that I review, amassing 42,000 votes on IMDB at the time of writing, and taking more than £20m at the box office, it is a film that I have wanted to review since I started this site and as I approach my 100th review, I also wanted to write about a genre that I have rarely touched on, comedy.
I’ve mentioned in the past that I am happy to review films that were well known at the time of their release but not so much now, and it is definitely the case with this film as not one single person that I know has seen this (to the best of my knowledge), and I myself have only seen it three times, including when I initially saw it in 2007.
Best in Show is the type of comedy that I like, a smart comedy that doesn’t try and force that comedy on you (for the majority). Too many comedies these days try to force the comedy on you and it stops being funny. I’ll give you an example, the first Ron Burgundy film was brilliant and one of the keys to that was the relatively minor character of Brick (played by Steve Carrell), but in the sequel they had realised this and used Brick far, far, far too much and it just wasn’t as funny. They tried to force it on you and it soon lost it’s appeal.
With the Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show fast approaching, a film crew decide to document five dogs and their owners both before, during and after the pageant. The couples are;
- Gerry and Cookie Fleck (Levy and O’Hara) and their dog, Winky – A couple that runs into money troubles and has to stay in a storage room in a hotel. Gerry becomes increasingly paranoid throughout due to the couple constantly running into Cookie’s old lovers.
- Megan and Hamilton Swan (Posey and Hitchcock) and their dog, Beatrice – An upper-class couple that seem to have come straight from the 1980s. Their neurotic approach to the pageant sees them run into trouble throughout and alienates them from the other participants.
- Harlan Pepper (Guest) and his dog, Hubert – A straight to the point man that lives in the country. He comes from a family that has been breeding dogs for generations, although he secretly wishes to be a ventriloquist.
- Sherri Ann and Leslie Cabot (Coolidge and Cranshaw) with their dog, Rhapsody in White – A middle aged woman who has married a very elderly man. Sherri is having an lesbian affair with their trainer, Christy (Lynch)
- Scott Donlan and Stefan Vanderhoof (Higgins and McKean) and their dog, Miss Agnes – A camp homosexual couple that firmly believe that their dog will win the competition.
As the competition progresses and dogs are eliminated, the relationships between the couples becomes increasingly tense, and those that are eliminated before the final blame the others. Which dog will come out on top?
So what makes it different than the typical comedy?
Comedies need various factors to work, timing, a situation that actually deserves the comedy, but for me that comedy comes from the delivery of the lines and the situation.
For example, in the first scene there sees Megan and Hamilton talking about someone being depressed and it goes on for about 90 seconds to two minutes and they are all serious about the situation. They talk about doing everything they can to bring someone out of a depression and then the camera pans to a dog that looks completely miserable.
Eugene Levy shines in terms of delivery. Levy is arguably best known for his role as Jim’s Dad in the American Pie franchise. He was delightful in that role due to his awkward, and yet charming, approach to teaching his son about sexual exploration. In “Best In Show” he again plays a socially awkward character and wears a prosthesis in his mouth to induce a heavy lisp, and his completely deadpan delivery of lines in a way makes them funny.
His character was born with two left feet and he starts talking about being bullied and mocked because he wasn’t able to walk in a straight line before therapy, and he delivers the line in a completely dead pan manner and it actually makes the situation sound funny that it is.
I’m not under any delusion though, this isn’t a style of comedy that will work with everyone. I think you definitely have to like a certain style of comedy to find this funny. If I had to liken it to TV shows then I would go with either Frasier or the UK version of The Office (I’ve never seen the US version) . Both rarely deliver your stereotypical laughs and they are, for lack of better words, intelligent comedies. They’re comedies where the funnier jokes are there but not necessarily obvious.
In a few ways the comedy is similar to Family Guy. By that I mean that Family Guy has a reputation of purposefully making jokes go on for a long time and the funny part comes in when it goes on for far, far, far too long, and there are several scenes like this. The character of Harlan spends several minutes listing nuts and and first it is quite amusing because it’s just so tediously dull, yet he doesn’t realise….and then he keeps going.
One of the main problems with mainstream comedies is that they aren’t necessarily unfunny, but that the best bits are in the trailer. This almost ruins the jokes and you never heard people laughing the cinema screens at the better jokes because people have already seen them in adverts several times and they lose their comic effect. “Best in Show” is one of the few comedies that I can think of where the best jokes aren’t in the trailer. This is so refreshing.
Argubaly the most interesting part of the film for me is that the five main people/groups of people that are being followed, each have unique and complex relationships with each other, as well as the interactions that they have with the other groups. There is a lot going on and it’s very representative of real life competitions. The arguments between couples, some couples actively trying to make friends and others emphasizing it’s a competition and not being even remotely interested in interacting with the others.
You’ve got the characters that take the competition too seriously and the ones who are just happy to be there. Megan and Hamilton in particular are fascinating to watch because they treat it as the be all and end all of life. Their lives revolve around their dog and they explode into a rage when the small things happen, such as them forgetting to bring the dog’s chew toy out of the car and exploding with rage at each other, with the true comedic moment being that the dog is on the screen at the same time and pulls off a great “not this shit again” look.
An amazing comedy with established stars in the genre, such as Eugene Levy, Michael McKean and several others, Best in Show is one of the more intelligent comedies that I have seen in the recent past and I can’t recommend it enough.
Whilst a movie about someone documenting the entrants in a dog show might not sound like it’s a format for laughter, it’s done in an easily accessible way. The interactions between the characters helps develop them and gain an attachment to them.
I’m not a fan of the comedy genre, but this is definitely one of the films that I do like.