Tagline: "Some pets deserve a little more respect than others."
Length: 89 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language and sex-related material
In much the same way that writer-director Christopher Guest satirized community theater in his 1996 film Waiting for Guffman, his Best in Show gently skewers the world of dog shows, and the result is hilarious. I saw Best in Show on the big screen years ago. The film is available on video and DVD, and as I watched it at home I found myself laughing just as hard as when I saw it in the theater.
Relying heavily on improvisation, Best in Show features a talented ensemble cast which creates quirky characters that are pure zany comic invention, giving viewers that anything-can-happen impression. The flip side of this, of course, is that the movie has the feel of a bunch of highly polished skits loosely strung together. But what makes the film work is that it's structured around the 125th Annual Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show, and we follow a diverse group of dog owners as they prepare their pets and bring them to Philadelphia for the show.
Among the owners are Meg and Hamilton Swan (Parker Posey and Michael Hitchcock), combative yuppie lawyers from Moordale, Illinois, who own a Weimaraner. The Swans originally came to each other's attention because Meg would habitually go to a Starbucks that was diagonally across the street from another Starbucks where Hamilton was a regular, and one day Hamilton went over to Meg's Starbucks and introduced himself. Their romantic relationship developed quickly when they discovered they both work on Macintosh computers and share an interest in J. Crew and L.L. Bean catalogs. But when we first meet them, the Swans are seeking help from a therapist. They believe their Weimaraner is angry with them because she saw them having sex in the position known in the Kama Sutra as the Congress of the Cow.
Cookie and Gerry Fleck (Catherine O'Hara and Eugene Levy) are residents of Fern City, Florida, who have a lovable Norwich terrier. Gerry, who sells men's clothing for a living, feels quite a bit of discomfort over the fact that before he and Cookie met, she had hundreds of lovers, and the Flecks keep running into them throughout the movie. On their drive from Fern City to Philadelphia, the Flecks stop off to visit one of Cookie's former boyfriends, Max Berman, who is now chief hostage negotiator for the tri-county area surrounding Akron.
Harlan Pepper (Christopher Guest), a bachelor who owns and operates a store called The Fishin' Hole in Pine Nut, North Carolina, has a bloodhound. Harlan is also an aspiring ventriloquist, and near the end of the film, we see him put on a show at the Pine Nut Veteran's Hall. When Hamilton Swan meets Harlan in Philadelphia, Hamilton is quite taken with the rustic look of Harlan's jacket and tries to get a look at the jacket's label to find out if it came from L.L. Bean.
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