Judge Patrick Naugle's favorite movie-watching snack is canine crunchies.
Our review of Best In Show, published May 21st, 2001, is also available.
It's a dog-eat-dog world.
Before The Office there was Christopher Guest, whose funny perception of documentaries brought to life such comedic classics as Waiting for Guffman and A Mighty Wind. One of Guest's best loved outings, Best in Show, is finally on Blu-ray care of Warner Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is one of the most prestigious events a dog owner can attend. Winning "Best in Show" is the highest award, and the competition is fierce. Best in Show follows a group of dog owners as they attempt to win the most coveted canine prize. There's uber-yuppie Meg (Parker Posey, Scream 3), Hamilton Sawn (Michael Hitchcock, MADtv), and their Weimaraner Beatrice; nerdy Gerry Fleck (Eugene Levy, American Pie), his promiscuous wife-with-a-reputation Cookie (Catherine O'Hara, Beetlejuice), and their Norwich terrier Winky; wealthy and tacky Sherri Ann Cabot (Jennifer Coolidge, Legally Blonde), her poodle Rhapsody, and Rhapsody's aggressive trainer Christy (Jane Lynch, Glee); flamboyantly gay couple Scott Donlan (John Michael Higgins, Party Down) and Stefan Vanderhoof (Michael McKean, Clue), and their Shih Tzu Miss Agnes; and finally homespun ventriloquist wannabe Harlan Pepper (Christopher Guest, The Princess Bride) and his proud bloodhound Hubert. Which one of these dogs will take home the blue ribbon of pride and which will be sent packing back to the doghouse?
Christopher Guest dominated the late 1990s and 2000s with his "mockumentaries," movies that take a skewed look at societal niches like community theater, folk singers, and awards shows. Of course, even before Guest's breakthrough hit Waiting for Guffman, the writer/director was well known for one of the funniest faux documentaries of all time, This is Spinal Tap. Together with Harry Shearer (The Simpsons) and Micheal McKean, that ode to rock 'n roll started Guest on a lifelong path of making movies about deeply flawed and comically weird individuals who are nonetheless lovable.
Best in Show reunites many of Waiting for Guffman's cast for another amusing story about a group of unique individuals. One of the reasons his films resonate is that he takes the time to make these characters three dimensional. Not content to have silliness for the silliness sake, Guest and co-writer Levy infuse each character with personality and a back story. Witness hearing Meg and Hamilton's recounting their first meeting, seeing each other from different Starbucks stores. It's small touches like these—and the Swan's matching braces—that give the movie its comedic depth.
Every member of the cast pulls his or her weight. O'Hara, Levy, Guest, Posey, McKean, Hitchcock, Higgins, and Coolidge are all brilliant in their roles, but it's in the small performances where the film truly shines. Guest regulars Don Lake (Wagons East!), Bob Balaban (Moonrise Kingdom), and Larry Miller (Pretty Woman) make the most of their limited screen time, fleshing out the film with deadpan ridiculousness. The funniest performance (in a movie filled with great performances) is Fred Willard (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy) as one of the most inappropriate judges ever to grace the Westminster's halls, serving up oodles of quotable nonsense ("Now tell me, which one of these dogs would you want to have as your wide receiver on your football team?"). Impressively, Guest was also able to get great performances out of the film's other stars—the dogs—with each mutt perfectly suited to his or her master.
Presented in 1.85:1/1080p high definition widescreen, I'm slightly disappointed with how flat Warner's transfer looks. Best in Show was made to have a rougher documentary feel and as such never really pops. Colors and black levels are solid, but there's a fair amount of grain in the image (due to the filmmakers decision to use 16mm stock). The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track supports the film well, but doesn't leave a lasting impression. It's mostly a front heavy mix with only a few scattered directional effects. Also included are 5.1 Surround and 2.0 Stereo mixes in Spanish, as well as English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles.
Bonus features are no different than the 2004 DVD release: a commentary from director/co-writer Christopher Guest and co-writer Eugene Levy, almost a half hour of deleted scenes (with optional commentary by Guest and Levy), and a theatrical trailer for the film.
Best in Show is comedy gold for dog lovers and anyone who's ever really wanted to win something, no matter how ridiculous it may seem. It's a near perfect film that's both laugh out loud funny and genuinely suspenseful, as the dogs and their masters compete for the coveted ribbon. Here's hoping Guest has more mockumentaries left in him.
A howling good time.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
Review content copyright © 2013 Patrick Naugle; Site design and review layout copyright © 2016 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.