Wednesday, October 18, 2000

Best in Show

Posted By on Wed, Oct 18, 2000 at 12:00 AM

Owners and shih tzus in Best in Show.
  • Owners and shih tzus in Best in Show.

Meg and Hamilton Swan (Parker Posey and Michael Hitchcock) are worried about Beatrice. Their therapist listens intently. Well … little Beatrice scampered in while Mommy and Daddy were working out a trademarked selection from that ancient catalog of sex positions, the Kama Sutra. She’s been acting out ever since. Beatrice fidgets on her couch — and buries her snout between her paws. This weimaraner bitch has got some issues to resolve if she wants to take the “Best in Show” ribbon.

But the Swans, of course, are not alone in pursuing the prize. Best in Show follows a motley crew of contenders from across America — and the categories of class, gender and sexual preference — in “mockumentary” (fictional “documentary”) style as they converge on Philadelphia to compete in the prestigious Mayflower dog show.

Gerry and Cookie Fleck (Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara) pack their cute-as-a-button Norridge terrier, Winky, and make the drive from Florida on a shoestring budget. Stefan Vanderhoof and Scott Donlan (Michael McKean and John Michael Higgins) tote their precious shih tzu, Miss Agnes, (and a suitcase full of kimonos) to the City of Brotherly Love. Sheri Ann Ward Cabot and Christy Cummings (Jennifer Coolidge and Jane Lynch) travel from their fully appointed kennel with their two-time champion giant poodle bitch Rhapsody in White (nicknamed Butch). Harlan Pepper (Christopher Guest) loads the Winnebago and heads up with his bloodhound Hubert — and a ventriloquist’s dummy.

Writers and stars Guest and Levy shift their satiric focus from the neurotic middle-American pursuit of stardom in their last movie, Waiting for Guffman (1996), to neurotic American relationships in Best in Show, upping the laughs. What could be potentially crazier or funnier than our relationship with “man’s best friend”? Our ridiculous relationships with our partners, straight or gay, and ourselves. Best lampoons them all, from traditional to modern, with few faux pas and still manages to subtly poke fun at tabloid celebrity.

Director Guest has rounded up many of the usual suspects from Guffman and even some from his This is Spinal Tap (1984) days. If you’re a fan of comic mockumentary, this is the best thing showing.

Showing exclusively at the Main Art Theatre (118 N. Main, Royal Oak). Call 248-542-0180.

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