Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy, Jennifer Coolidge, John Michael Higgins, Michael Hitchcock, Jane Lynch, Michael McKean, Parker Posey
, Catherine O'Hara, Fred Willard
Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy
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 America prepare to take part in what is undoubtedly one of the greatest events of their lives - the Mayflower Dog Show.
$413.436 thousand on 13 screens.
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Castilian Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Latin Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0
Runtime: 90 min.
Release Date: 2/19/2013
• Audio Commentary with Director/Actor/Writer Christopher Guest and Writer/Actor Eugene Levy
• 17 Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
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Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.
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Best In Show [Blu-Ray] (2000)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 22, 2013)
For more than 20 years, Iíve been the proud owner of a variety of small dogs. They lead pretty cushy little lives, and periodically I feel compelled to remind them how good they have things. Usually this occurs during some form of major storm, as I like to point out to them that many poor dogs are stuck out in the elements while they snooze on their nice warm chairs.
However, other events prompt my harangues as well. Such a diatribe occurred as I watched Best In Show, a faux documentary about the world of big-time dog shows. Iíve had some purebreds, and had I wanted to do so, I could have entered them into a life such as this. However, I wanted them to live normal lives, so I avoided the circuit, a decision for which they should thank me.
I recognize that the fact I occasionally harass my dogs may make me sound odd - maybe even a little nuts - but compared to the folks who frequent these dog shows, Iím as normal as they come. Take a look at the poofy haircuts given to the poor poodles we see in Best In Show; my poddles should get down on their paws and knees and thank God I donít subject them to that! (For the record, my dogs get standard puppy cuts when they get groomed - nothing poofy for my little girls!)
Of course, Show doesnít purport to offer a perfectly factual look at the world of dog shows, but despite its satirical edge, I think it comes closer than many real-life participants might like to admit. In this terrific comedy, we focus upon a small group of competitors and their pooches. However, the production emphasizes the humans, as their quirks entertain more than anything the relatively normal dogs could do.
When we meet the main participants, we find Harlan Pepper (writer/director Christopher Guest), the owner of a fishing store in North Carolina, and his bloodhound Hubert. New York gay couple Stefan Vanderhoof (Michael McKean) and Scott Donlan (John Michael Higgins) bring their shih tzu plus enough clothes and furnishings to make their two-night stay in Philadelphia last a month, while uptight, neurotic yuppie couple Meg (Parker Posey) and Hamilton (Michael Hitchcock) Swan take their Weimaraner Beatrice and her favorite toy Busy Bee to the big show.
Gerry (writer Eugene Levy) and Cookie (Catherine OíHara) Fleck arrive from Florida with their terrier Winky; along the way they take a detour through the house of one of Cookieís many - and I do mean many - past lovers. Lastly, Sheri Ann Ward Cabot (Jennifer Coolidge) shows her prize standard poodle Butch. As led by Christy Cummings (Jane Lynch) - whoís a Butch handler in more ways than the literal one - Butch won the past two Mayflowers.
As with 1984ís seminal classic This Is Spinal Tap, Show uses the framework of an event mainly as an excuse to offer a running slew of character gags. Not coincidentally, Guest served as one of the main participants in Tap, and a number of other performers from that flick crop up here; McKeanís the most significant other member of Tap, but we also see Ed Begley Jr. and Fred Willard.
Tap remains easily the superior film; it was a more inspired piece, and though it lacked a formal plot, the slow disintegration of the band as seen through the estrangement of friends Nigel Tufnel and David St. Hubbins added a connecting theme to the flick. Show doesnít really have any sort of unifying tone to bring all of the parts together, and itís a much less focused film. Thatís not a criticism, though, as itíd be nearly impossible to duplicate the brilliance of Tap; Show is more concerned with basic humor and it lacks the sweet pathos of the older movie.
In any case, Show succeeds well as a comedy, almost totally because of the excellent performances seen throughout the movie. As with Tap, the film may list screenwriters, but in truth the cast wrote the picture. Guest and Levy created a basic storyline to follow and included specific incidents that they wanted to occur along the way, but each actor delivered the exposition and execution of those moments.
The film was mainly improvised, and wonderfully so. Comedy is a performerís medium anyway, but this format really ups the ante, and all of the actors respond terrifically to the challenge. Itíd be virtually impossible to single out any particularly special performances, though Willard does almost steal the second half of the film with his exuberantly moronic work as show commentator Buck Laughlin.
Although Willard makes Laughlin seem like an idiot, he does so with the same endearing qualities that accompany almost all of the characters. All of the roles veer toward caricature, but the actors imbue them with enough gusto and charm to make them come across as (mostly) affectionate portrayals. While we laugh at the characters, for the most part we like them and donít feel as thought weíre disconnected with them.
Granted, thatís not a perfect rule, and I thought some of the roles lacked enough heart. Cummings and Cabot arenít unlikable, but we root against them, and the Swans are absolutely despicable. Theyíre two loathsome characters who attack everything they touch except for their ridiculously-coddled dog, and while theyíre hilarious to watch - Posey and Hitchcock contribute terrific performances - I thought they should have provided something more warm onto which we could latch. No, comedies donít have to be fully filled with fuzzy roles, but a spoof such as this works best when we care about the characters to some degree, and a few of these main participants arenít very endearing.
I have to give special credit to Guest for his work as North Carolinian Pepper for one reason. Normally when we hear a Southern accent in a film, it tends to be excessively heavy and the actor comes across as a reject from Hee Haw. Thatís most definitely not the case with Guest, as he dons a perfect tone that seems eminently believable. He makes Pepperís lines a bit tough to understand at times, but this is appropriate, and he does it without any of the usual Blanche DuBois dramatics.
Itís just one of a slew of nice performances that populate Best In Show, a consistently funny spoof of dog shows and the over-the-top personalities they attract. Though not in the class of something such as This Is Spinal Tap, the film is quite well-executed and entertaining, as it provides 90 minutes of almost non-stop humor. This is the kind of movie that will likely endure repeated viewings, and Iím glad to have it in my collection.
The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus B-
Best In Show appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. As a low-budget Super 16 film, Show had some flaws inherent to the original product, and while these meant that the movie didnít look terrific, I thought the Blu-ray replicated the material well.
Sharpness usually appeared accurate and detailed. At times, however, we saw lesser definition in some of the wide shots, as those could be a bit soft. Nonetheless, most of the movie appeared clear and appropriately focused. Moirť effects and jagged edges presented no concerns, and edge haloes failed to appear. The Super 16 source left us with a lot of grain, but that remained in acceptable, appropriate levels, and the presentation lacked print defects,
Colors were fairly good. Between the grain and the subpar film stock, some hues were a bit flat, but they usually showed decent clarity. Black levels were fairly deep and rich, and shadow detail seemed good, though there really werenít a whole lot of low-light sequences to test the movie. No one will use this film to show of their ginormous TVs, but the Blu-ray provided a strong replication of the original material.
With the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Best In Show, we got a low-key effort. The film featured no score, so the only audio heard outside of the middle speaker came from a variety of ambient effects.
In that regard, the mix did pretty well for itself. I heard nice atmospherics from the side speakers throughout the movie, and the surrounds kicked in adequately during appropriate scenes. For example, a thunderstorm added a modest punch from all five channels, and the crowd noise during the show itself seemed appropriately engulfing, though it remained fairly modest.
Audio quality sounded good. Dialogue appeared consistently warm and natural, and speech displayed no concerns related to edginess or intelligibility. Effects were a minor component of the mix, but the various elements appeared clean and distinct.
Music was almost totally a non-factor during the film. Some music introduced the TV show for which Fred Willardís character commented, and there was also a song that played over the end credits and a couple of other tunes that fit in with the action. However, the lack of a true score meant that music remained a minor factor during this mix. Ultimately, the soundtrack to Best In Show sounded clear and it worked appropriately well for the material, all of which added up to a ďBĒ rating.
How did this Blu-ray compare to the original DVD from 2001? Audio was fairly similar, as the subdued nature of the mix meant the lossless mix didnít have a lot of room for growth. On the other hand, visuals seemed more impressive. The Blu-ray gave us a cleaner, tighter and more dynamic presentation. While the Blu-ray still showed the restrictions of the source, it offered a good representation of that material.
The Blu-ray duplicates the DVDís main extras. First up we get a running audio commentary from director/writer/actor Christopher Guest and writer/actor Eugene Levy. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at the movieís loose story, cast, characters and performances, locations, improvisation, and other connected topics.
When I first listened to this track in 2001, I thought it seemed pretty mediocre, but in retrospect, I was too hard on it. While the commentary doesnít constantly delight, it offers a lot of good details along with some wry humor. Sure, it sags a little at times, but itís still an enjoyable, likable chat that works better than I believed 12 years ago.
In addition to the filmís trailer, we get 17 deleted scenes. These run a total of 30 minutes, 37 seconds, and itís almost all very good stuff.
As I watched these pieces, it became clear that they werenít edited because of poor quality; they shot about 60 hours of footage for Show, so not everything could make the cut and some excellent clips fell to the floor. These extras are a lot of fun and make for a nice complement to the film proper. Guestís improvs as Harlan are the best Ė especially when he shows us his beach ball collection or performs his awful ventriloquist act Ė but the rest amuse as well.
We can watch the deleted scenes with or without commentary from Guest and Levy. As with their full track, this piece can be a little slow, but Guest and Levy let us know some behind the scenes notes and the two get in a few good jokes as well.
One of the better ďfake documentariesĒ, Best in Show offers a delight. It boasts excellent performances and delivers a consistently amusing and enjoyable experience. The Blu-ray gives us well-reproduced picture and audio along with a few enjoyable bonus features. This remains a favorite movie, and the Blu-ray gives us a strong representation of it.
Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars
| Number of Votes: 4