I’m not sure if I have much more to say about this movie that I haven’t already said over the last ten years, but it has solidified something I always knew: of the four Christopher Guest-directed satires — I do not count Rob Reiner’s This Is Spinal Tap —this is far and away the funniest. It’s not the most thematically resonant (Waiting For Guffman), the one with the best overall cast (A Mighty Wind) nor the most biting (For Your Consideration), but the laugh-to-minute ratio is tip-top, and it has always been a pleasure to pop this one in. It’s also one of the few movies that I’ll watch mid-film when it pops up on cable, something I tend not to do, as I hate commercials during movies, despise censorship and visual modification and would rather watch a movie from beginning to end. Many of the best improv actors of the last decade truly broke out here, including Jane Lynch, Jennifer Coolidge (proving she can be more than just a MILF) and John Michael Higgins, and the ones we already knew well (Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Guest himself in my favorite performance) continue to work wonders.
(In addition, I very much find Fred Willard to be a scream as the wildly inappropriate competition commentator, but let me tell you something…when I had to compile his filmography for work, I discovered that Mr. Willard had appeared in over 250 projects for film and television. Most people have around 50 credits to their name and take only a few hours, but this improvisation bastard took me all freakin’ day, so no matter how funny he is, he made my life a living hell for a 24-hour period. So he can suck it.)
What struck me about this movie this time around, though, is how pitch-perfect of a sports parody it truly is. I like sports, I really do, but I often get concerned with how much energy people put into what is still, in my humble opinion, a piece of entertainment. Clearly, I consider entertainment to be a serious matter, but I don’t bark at my screen when bad things happen, I don’t talk the worst kinds of shit to people and get into fistfights regarding people who support an opposing team, and I don’t intentionally learn statistics that don’t entirely matter in my own personal life. My point is, sports are great, and I respect how they can lift people’s spirits, but their strengths are entirely based around what you as an individual put into them. You could be a casual sports fan, rooting for your team as a matter of fun, and then you go on with your life. You could go whole hog and play in several fantasy football leagues, poring over yards and trades and injury reports till I went cross-eyed. But if you take a step back and really examine it, it can appear to be extremely silly.
As silly as watching people obsess over their showdogs for an event the animals clearly don’t give a shit about. As silly as seeing the politics of competitive sports in action. As silly as somebody racing into a pet store and getting into a screaming match with a clerk about a busy bee. Is there really any difference?
Best In Show takes these matters and attaches them to some of the most fully realized characters I can remember in such a silly comedy. Everybody gives it their all, and even the minor characters with one or two scenes — Bob Balaban, for instance — have an air of biting honesty about them. We know these people. They may not be showdog people, but we know them. They are our family members, our relatives, our best friends, our enemies, our crazy neighbors, our drinking buddies. And they have somewhere to put their passions, no matter how strange it may seem to those of us on the outside peeking in.