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Best in show

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Movie propaganda

Some pets deserve a little more respect than others.

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 the USA 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. There is Harlan Pepper (Christopher Guest), a fly fishing shop owner from Pine Nut, North Carolina, who hopes that his bloodhound, Hubert, may be the first of his kind to win top prize at the show.

In their upscale Illinois home, yuppie lawyers Meg (Parker Posey) and Hamilton Swan (Michael Hitchcock) anxiously ready themselves and their somewhat neurotic Weimaraner, Beatrice, for the big event. Meanwhile, in Fern City, Florida, mild-mannered menswear salesman Gerry Fleck (Eugene Levy) and his vivacious wife, Cookie (Catherine O'Hara), happily prepare their Norwich terrier, Winky, for the most important show of his competitive career. In New York, professional handler Scott Donlan (John Michael Higgins) and his long-time partner, hair salon owner Stefan Vanderhoof (Michael McKean), happily anticipate the event as they feel that one of their Shih Tzu, Miss Agnes, stands a very good chance of winning the cup.

Although the fabulously wealthy and elderly Leslie Ward Cabot (Patrick Cranshaw) and his voluptuous young wife, Sherri Ann Cabot (Jennifer Coolidge), are confident that their two-time champion standard poodle, Rhapsody in white, will keep the crown, they aren't taking any chances and have hired ace handler Christy Cummings (Jane Lynch) to assure their win. At the Mayflower dog show, everything is being organised with the utmost precision under the watchful eye of Mayflower Kennel Club President Doctor Theodore W Millbank III (Bob Balaban) and the show's chairman, Graham Chissolm (Don Lake). Trevor Beckwith (Jim Piddock) and Buck Laughlin (Fred Willard) are the Mayflower dog show commentators.

Finally, the hundreds of contestants come together under one giant roof, the audience throngs the massive arena and the competition begins in earnest as television cameras bring the wonderful world of dogs to millions.

Theatrical propaganda posters

Best in show image

Target demographic movie keyword propaganda

  • Film comedy mockumentary dog show

Persons of interest

  • Jay Brazeau .... Dr Chuck Nelken
  • Parker Posey .... Meg Swan
  • Michael Hitchcock .... Hamilton Swan
  • Catherine O'Hara .... Cookie Guggelman Fleck
  • Eugene Levy .... Gerald "Gerry" Fleck
  • Bob Balaban .... Dr Theodore W Millbank III
  • Christopher Guest .... Harlan Pepper
  • Michael McKean .... Stefan Vanderhoof
  • John Michael Higgins .... Scott Donlan
  • Patrick Cranshaw .... Leslie Ward Cabot
  • Jennifer Coolidge .... Sherri Ann Ward Cabot
  • Don Lake .... Graham Chissolm
  • Jane Lynch .... Christy Cummings
  • Linda Kash .... Fay Berman
  • Larry Miller .... Max Berman
  • Ed Begley Jr .... Mark Schaefer
  • Malcolm Stewart .... Malcolm
  • Cody Greg .... Zach Berman
  • Fred Willard .... Buck Laughlin
  • Jim Piddock .... Trevor Beckwith
  • Earlene Luke .... Mayflower Hound Judge Eadie Franklin
  • Cleo A Laxton .... Mayflower Terrier Judge Ruth Collyer
  • Corrine Koslo .... Mayflower Sporting Judge Peter Dunlap
  • Don S Davis .... Mayflower Best in Show Judge Everett Bainbridge
  • Steve Porter .... Bulge
  • Canadian Champion Arokat's Echobar Take Me Dancing .... Beatrice, the Weimaraner
  • Canadian Champion Urchin's Bryllo .... Winky, the Norwich Terrier
  • Champion Quiet Creek's Stand By Me .... Hubert, the Bloodhound
  • Canadian Champion Raptures Classic .... Miss Agnes, the Shih Tzu
  • Canadian Champion Symarun's Red Hot Kisses .... Tyrone, the Shih Tzu
  • Brocade Exclamation Canadian Champion Exxel Dezi Duz It With Pizaz .... Rhapsody in White, the Standard Poodle
  • Christopher Guest .... Screenwriter
  • Eugene Levy .... Screenwriter
  • Christopher Guest .... Director

Cinematic intelligence sources

Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report

Familiarity breeds contempt.

Geddit? Geddit? Oh well, I can't be blamed for the inadequacies of your education.

Best in show continues the mockumentary style of This is Spinal Tap and Waiting for Guffman but falls prey to the unforgivable sin of dropping out of the genre. Drop dead gorgeous also made this mistake, allowing the viewer (that's you, in case you couldn't figure it out) to experience moments of narrative which a documentarist could never record, like two people talking. In an Eye of God documentary, this is accomplished by a shot of both people. In a narrative it is two shots, one of each person, spliced together. Every film, video, DVD and TV program you have ever seen does this; no-one in real life would allow a camera that close to their face during a private conversation.

All of which leads me to the conclusion that Christopher and Eugene had problems writing the script. Don't get me wrong, it's continuously funny and often hilarious, but relying on stylistic breaks to convey a message reveals an inability to maintain momentum.

Wow, talk about alliteration!

Best in show is the mongrel child of Spinal Tap and Guffman and, as such, does not contain the best features of either. It is funny, but it is occasionally contrived. It is as honest as Tap, but not as vicious as Guffman. Sometimes it pees on the carpet.

While it's certainly not a dog, Best in show lacks the pedigree of its predecessors.

Familiarity breeds contempt.

(Now do you get it?)

Media intelligence (DVD)

  • Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Disc type: dual layer
  • Picture: pal Widescreen 16:9
  • Languages: English, French, German
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, Portuguese, Hebrew, Polish, Greek, Turkish, Hungarian, Icelandic, Croatian, Italian SDH
  • Commentary by Christopher, Eugene and several cast members
  • Additional scenes (nearly 30 minutes) with optional commentary by Christopher Guest
  • Cast/filmmaker highlights
  • Original theatrical trailer

Security censorship classification

PG (Sexual references, low level coarse language)

Surveillance time

87 minutes (1:27 hours)

Not for public release in Australia before date

DVD rental: 17 October 2001

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