I always forget how great this movie is. That might have something to do with the preponderance of mockumentary-style TV shows that have crowded the airwaves in the past decade. Some are great (The Office, Arrested Development), some are so-so (The Michael J. Fox Show), and some are funny, but the interview trope doesn’t always make sense (Modern Family). The format has become so overused that it’s hard to remember a time when it was both fresh and used in a way that felt totally real.
Best in Show takes you into the world of dog shows, or more accurately into the world of their weird owners. This is a typical Christopher Guest cast, full of quirky characters played by a group of talented actors. A few favorites are Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara as a mismatched couple who enjoy writing songs about their Norwich Terrier, Parker Posey and Michael Hitchcock as a couple who treat their Weimaraner like a child, and Michael McKean and John Michael Higgins as a gay couple confident in their Shih Tzu’s chances at winning the top prize. Fred Willard also shines as a terrible show commentator. He delivers some of the best lines of the movie.
Aside from the excellent actors, funny script, and great improvisation, what really makes this movie work so well is the attention to detail. Professional dog handlers and judges were used in filming. The final third looks and feels like a real dog show, and you actually find yourself anxiously waiting to see who wins the coveted best in show. Credit is also due to the animal actors here. All of the dogs are gorgeous and incredibly well trained, but what else would you expect from actual champion purebreds?
What a hidden gem this movie is. It’s a quirky independent film, a mockumentary about a group of wacky dog owners who participate in dog shows all year round. The film follows five dogs and their owners who are participating in the Mayflower Kennel Club dog show in Philadelphia. It is the most prestigious dog show of the year and all five owners are desperate to win the ‘best in show’ award.
This film is from the same people who made This is Spinal Tap and it is definitely in the same vein as that terrific movie. Many of the cast from spinal tap return for this film. Christopher Guest stars as a laid back Canadian who enters his young bloodhound. Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy (Jim’s dad from American Pie) star as a couple with a terrier. Their dog always wins in their small Florida town, but this is their first trip to ‘the big show’. Jennifer Coolidge (Stifler’s mum) and Jane Lynch (Glee‘s Sue Sylvester) are a possibly lesbian couple who enter a poodle. Lynch is a professional dog handler and has never lost. Michael McKeon and John Michael Higgins are two gay stereotypes that enter their shih tzu into the competition, also confident of a win. Parker Posey and Michael Hitchcock round out the dog show participants as a neurotic married couple who are worried about their dog’s ability to perform when it became depressed after seeing them having sex.
The whole cast is full of random weirdness like that. These characters are quite wacky. Eugene Levy’s character has two left feet, literally, and it makes it difficult to walk his dog around the arena when his wife can’t do it. The whole scene is great and really funny. All of the characters in this film have their moments in this film. I hadn’t watched it for years and forgot how funny it is. I have to mention Fred Willard as a commentator at the dog show. He is hilarious and definitely the highlight of the film for me. It’s worth seeing just for Willard, he has the best lines in the film.