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Best In Show
cast: Eugene Levy, Parker Posey, Catherine O'Hara, and Michael McKean

director: Christopher Guest

86 minutes (12) 2001
Warner VHS retail

RATING: 9/10
reviewed by Emma French
Christopher Guest, who wrote the 'mockumentary' classic This Is Spinal Tap also scripted and directed this excellent film, one of the cinematic pleasures of last year. Guest stars in it, too, as fishing supply storeowner Harlan Pepper, an amateur ventriloquist prone to unintentionally hilarious monologues. Best In Show deserves the same cult classic status as Guest's earlier hit. Its exposure of human foibles is insightful but signally lacking any degree of malice, leaving a benevolent impression of a slightly demented band of people's experiences presenting their dogs at the highlight of the competitive year, the Mayflower dog show in Philadelphia. As in Spinal Tap, Guest has selected his satirical target well, as the world of dog shows (like that of heavy metal) is a strange one rich in comic possibilities.
   Eugene Levy, a wonderful character actor, has improved every film he has appeared in, from Splash to American Pie. He once again proves his versatile comic talents here as Gerald Fleck, a Florida resident with two left feet and a wife, Cookie (Catherine O'Hara), who appears to have enjoyed sexual liaisons with half of America before settling happily with him. His bemused tolerance of her vast array of ex-lovers encapsulates the film's bittersweet exploration of human eccentricity. Parker Posey's neurotic character Meg Swan forms a jarring exception to the general tone, as her character oversteps the fine line that everyone else negotiates successfully between oddness and genuine mental problems. The gay couple played by John Michael Higgins (Scott Donlan) and Michael McKean (Stefan Vanderhoof) overcome occasional stereotyping to present rounded, amusing characters. The terrific ensemble cast makes the film, as they're all performing at the peak of their abilities.
   Even non-dog lovers are likely to be won over by the long-suffering pooches, and part of the genius of the film is that the apparent impartiality of its documentary eye never detracts from genuine emotional involvement - it is impossible not to end up rooting for one of the dogs. At less than 90 minutes this film feels all too brief.