Quirky. This word best describes Best in Show, the new comedy from the director of last year’s critically acclaimed, Waiting for Guffman.
Dog lovers and dog show aficionados alike should relate to this offbeat tale of dog owners surviving a national dog show. Surviving is the operative word. The drama surrounding the event–from the manic preparation leading up to the frantic anticipation during judging–was reminiscent of the hysteria that often grips parents who enter their young daughters in junior beauty pageants.
The majority of dog owners in the movie treated their pets like children. Here is a brief sampling of characters:
a) the clothes catalog-obsessed couple that believed arguing in front of their dog causes it emotional trauma
b) the bean farmer who believed his dog possesses powers of mental telepathy
c) the cosmetologist who cheats on her wealthy but senile octogenarian husband with the lesbian dog trainer
d) the middle-aged couple who, en route to the show, keep running into the wife’s former “male acquaintances” who all had a penchant for describing–in front of the husband–the details of their youthful encounters.
The abundance of colorful and funny characters make this film work. This kind of movie doesn’t rely on a powerful plot or grand comedic spectacle but rather subtle humor that sometimes takes a moment to seep in. The basic story was kept simple, with the characters assigned the task of exposing the irrational absurdities of pageants. The use of animals as unwitting yet obedient fixtures in such contests is an effective metaphor for the willing mannequin-like ventures of women in popular beauty pageants.
The movie employs a mock-documentary style throughout by interspersing interviews of dog owners and other event participants. This device underscores the film’s satirical nature.
Best in Show is not a great comedy. It is just funny and interesting enough to be worth the money, and isn’t that the whole point?