Improvisation can be very hit and miss. The problem with Best in Show and anything by Christopher Guest is that it is all, largely, improvised, so his movies become hit and miss as well.
The other problem that Guest has is that he has a reputation built on one of the coolest and funniest, mostly improvised films ever, This is Spinal Tap. People now expect Guest, who was largely responsible for Spinal Tap, to then produce something as good, especially if he manages to bring along the actors who helped make that film a success. Unfortunately, the spark and magic that helped make This is Spinal Tap a classic just isn’t reproduced here.
It isn’t for lack of a good idea. The films based on improvised or fluid ideas are only as good as their main theme and the Crufts style Dog Show is a fantastic way to produce a wide range of unique, obsessive, quirky but hopefully funny characters. Best in Show has the full range, from the rich megastar to the “underdog” hopeful to the quarrelling couple who stay together for the sake of their dog. Each have their own great stories that have very funny moments but it’s never sustained.
The film lacks the clever, subtle touches that Spinal Tap had and also the stand-out, classic moments. There are some great scenes and some of the characters play very well off each other but it never really impresses like the Rock Mockumentary managed too.
That isn’t to say there aren’t some brilliant performances and stand-out characters. Eugene Levy seems to find it effortless to steal a film. He manages to deliver some of the best lines and has the greatest reactions to how other characters act around him. The funniest part of the film is actually the commentary for the Dog Show though. The double-act of Fred Willard and Jim Piddock is acted perfectly. The combination of Willard’s awful and sometimes inappropriate knowledge of dogs, coupled with the straight-man, straight-faced delivery of Piddock is worth sitting through the whole ninety minute film to witness.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t make the film good overall. Although there are brilliant moments and some great characters, they deliver too sporadically and there are long moments of the strange or just outrageous.
Overall, aside from a few great performances and very clever scenes, this film lacks the subtlety and originality that made a film like This is Spinal Tap such a success. It is worth watching for Eugene Levy and Jim Piddock’s brief scenes but even those can’t make this film a good overall movie.
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)