Best in Show (2000)
July 21, 2020 9:14 AM - Subscribe

The tension is palpable, the excitement is mounting and the heady scent of competition is in the air as hundreds of eager contestants from across America prepare to take part in what is undoubtedly one of the greatest events of their lives -- the Mayflower Dog Show. The canine contestants and their owners are as wondrously diverse as the great country that has bred them.

A "behind the scenes" look into the highly competitive and cut-throat world of dog-shows through the eyes of a group of ruthless dog owners including: yuppies Hamilton and Meg Swan and their neurotic weimeraner "Beatrice"; mild-mannered menswear salesman Gerry and Cookie Fleck, whose Norwich terrier's registered name is "Champion Thank You Neil Sedaka"; fly-fishing shop owner Harlan Pepper and his beloved bloodhound "Hubert"; New Yorker Scott Donlon and his longtime hairdresser partner, Stefan Vanderhoof, who anticipate the crown for their pampered shih tzus "Miss Agnes" and "Tyrone"; and the champion poodle "Rhapsody in White" who might just snare the title for the third year running.

Stephanie Zacharek: As in "Spinal Tap" and "Guffman," much of each actor's role was improvised around Guest and Levy's bare-bones script; it's rare to find such a large group so wholly in sync. Guest and his gang prefer jokes that ricochet: Sometimes their lines swing around and hit their mark, one delectable half-beat later; other times they escape into the ozone, hapless dust motes with no real mission. But even the free-floating jokes that fail to hit home contribute to the picture's overall vibe: No joke ever feels wasted. There's an admirable economy to "Best in Show," an understanding that the best comedy isn't just a string of gags but a picture that fills itself out gradually and completely, with plenty of laughs tucked in along the way.

Roger Ebert: That's why I approve of "Best in Show," a wickedly funny mocumentary by Christopher Guest that makes fun of a Philadelphia dog show with every instrument in the satirist's arsenal, from the skewer to the mallet. Built around the improvisational techniques of Second City, the movie is consistently just plain funny and sometimes ascends to a kind of crazed genius. Consider Parker Posey's rage and loathing as she assaults a store clerk who cannot supply a Busy Bee dog toy. Her dog has lost its toy and is fretting, and the way she screams "Busy Bee! Busy Bee!" you'd think she was looking for emergency snakebite remedy.

Just as "Guffman" ended with the ill-fated pageant, "Best in Show" ends with the dog show itself, depending on the built-in structure of the competition to bring all of the owners and their stories together at the same time. Satires have a way of running out of steam, but the suspense of the judging process keeps the energy high, even apart from an assist by the dog who attacks a judge, inspiring Buck's most appreciative play-by-play commentary.

Rita Kempley: Hearts are thumping, noses are quivering and fur is flying as eager competitors wait their turns to shine at the prestigious if fictional Mayflower Dog Show. But the prized pooches seem to be taking the hoopla surrounding the canine Olympics in stride.
But then, the dog owners are the real subject in Christopher Guest's "Best in Show," a genial mock documentary modeled on the satirist's 1996 little-theater spoof, "Waiting for Guffman." Although it has blue-ribbon moments, the new comedy just isn't as fresh, focused or uniformly funny as the first. But about halfway through, Fred Willard comes to the rescue with a hilarious parody of a clueless sportscaster covering the dog show.

posted by Carillon (15 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
We've been watching Guest's mockumentary ouvre, and this was really good. When Harlan Pepper just starts naming nuts, I've no idea why I found that so funny, but it was one of my favorite scenes, and with the asides about it driving his mother crazy. So good.
posted by Carillon at 10:52 AM on July 21, 2020 [9 favorites]

this movie is 20 years old and my spouse and i are still making call backs to that busy bee freakout. such a great movie.
posted by LegallyBread at 12:11 PM on July 21, 2020 [5 favorites]

Jane Lynch and Jennifer Coolidge are perfect in this movie.
posted by briank at 12:30 PM on July 21, 2020 [5 favorites]

I. Love. This. Movie.

I’m trying to think of favorite lines or scenes but there are just so many. All the actors are great but Fred Willard is genius.

I have to admit that I do judge people a bit based on whether or not they like this film.
posted by bookmammal at 12:38 PM on July 21, 2020 [6 favorites]

I watched this again the other night. It's so wonderful. Probably Guest's best film.

Parker Posey would refuse to wear a mask.

Somewhere there must be a bunch of Fred Willard outtakes. When he died this was the film I posted a clip from.
posted by bondcliff at 12:39 PM on July 21, 2020 [5 favorites]

This movie is wonderful, and my household quotes it all the time. I'm a big fan of WHAT ARE YOU, A WIZARD!?!?

We also name nuts anytime someone mentions any nut variety, and we do it in the Harlan Pepper voice.

When someone is leaving on a road trip, we tell them to eat something if they get hungry.

When we stop for coffee, whatever someone orders we comment softly "that's really sexy."
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 8:52 AM on July 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

I think that rhapsody in white's owners are based on Anna nicole smith and j Howard Marshall
posted by brujita at 10:31 AM on July 22, 2020

I've been to enough (utterly minor league, not Westminster style) conformation shows that I still haven't made it through the whole thing. The parts that I've seen are all "Oh, yeah, I remember her." Which goes towards saying that I don't remember rhapsody in white or his/her owners, but lemme just say that you don't need to escalate to Anna Nicole Smith to find a real-world counterpart.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 3:59 PM on July 22, 2020

there are lots of gold diggers who go after elderly men, but my hunch is that a smaller percentage of them are lesbian or bisexual.
posted by brujita at 4:41 PM on July 22, 2020

around the time of release I read an article about ANS describing her ltr with a woman that continued after her marriage to Marshall
posted by brujita at 4:44 PM on July 22, 2020

It's a great rewatch film, and perfect for at home viewing-- breaking up into segments, savoring the small moments. I don't know how Fred Willard's cohost kept a straight face. And when the hotel manager is explaining their lineup of cleaning products in terms of dog size....and the utter competitiveness of "Butch"s trainer. The only problem I have with watching a bunch of these Christopher Guest films one after the other is that I start to notice how he always has a "shady lady" character with a tired stereotyped past, wink wink nudge nudge, eww.
posted by winesong at 10:40 AM on July 23, 2020

I don't know how Fred Willard's cohost kept a straight face.

"Now that looks like a fast dog."
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:05 PM on July 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

Popping in to recommend the DVD extras - most of Harlan's bits from those found their way into our common lexicon as well. Freaking hilarious.
posted by Occula at 12:33 PM on July 28, 2020

I adore this movie, particularly the bit with the nuts (I name nuts with the boys when we're driving sometimes) and the way Michael McKean's character looks at John Michael Higgins' character with such love all the way through.
posted by h00py at 2:35 AM on August 4, 2020

7 Kimonos for a 48-hour trip is not enough.
posted by mcstayinskool at 6:31 AM on August 4, 2020

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