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Castle Rock Pictures
Official Site

Director: Christopher Guest

Producer: Karen Murphy

Written by: Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy

Cast: Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy, Parker Posey, Michael Hitchcock, Catherine O’Hara, John Michael Higgins, Micheal McKean, Jennifer Coolidge, Jane Lynch, Fred Willard, Ed Begley Jr., Bob Balaban, Patrick Cranshaw, Don Lake

Rating: *** out of 5

I guess the one single image and idea that BEST IN SHOW brings to mind is Big Gay Al from the TV series, South Park. The story reveals gushing homosexuality (among other things) between these outrageous characters and, above all, a love for pets. Dog lovers will delight in the screen time given to their favorite furry friends, and all audiences will enjoy robust rounds of laughter throughout this film. Sadly, there is no Oscar category for Best Comedy. If there were, BEST IN SHOW would probably be nominated. Whether or not it would be deserving of this honor is a question best answered by the amount of joy it brings to ticket buyers.

It’s not all dog poo jokes and animal goofing, as one might think from viewing the trailer. The situations are adult in nature, and the dogs—far from what each owner would have you think—are the second priority. Included in the mixed-up bunch vying for the coveted crown at this year’s Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show are: the owner, the handler (Coolidge and Lynch), and the reigning "Best of Show" poodle; a young, high-strung urban couple (Posey and Hitchcock) with their Weimaraner; the righteously gay couple (Higgins and McKean) with their Pomeranians; and Ed Begley, Jr. as the Can-Do hotel manager who goes out of his way to find room in his utility closet for the Flecks of Florida (Levy and O’Hara) and their long-shot terrier. Also in contention, with something to prove, are Harlan Pepper (Guest) and his lovely, wrinkled bloodhound, who have traveled in their RV all the way from Pinenut, North Carolina.

The bright lights of Philadelphia put a spring in everyone’s step and a bit of anticipation in every heart. There are reasons to love them all, as well as moments when we see how each specimen is not perfect either. These animals are touted as the highest-grade canines in their respective breeds by the hilarious commentators of the Mayflower show—not a small distinction in the least. To prance and paw at the right time is essential, and there’s no excuse for misplacing Mr. Busy Bee, your dog’s favorite chew toy, when attending an event of such magnitude.

If you don’t like the softer side of humor, you may be won over by the personalities that each contestant must endure during the grooming prior to the show. Otherwise, if you go for the Adam Sandler slapstick, you should wait a few weeks. (Your type might be put right to sleep, like on those Sunday afternoons when you doze in front of the pet channel.) The characterizations forged throughout this film are distinct and enjoyable, with the exception of Coolidge’s over-processed, lesbian wallflower. Though it never builds past anything bigger than the dog show itself and its residual effects, this memorable plot and the extra special performances contained within will bring cheer in the new season of dreary days.

Mortimer Marker

HYBRID Ratings Guide:

***** Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

**** It’s worth a full-price ticket.

*** It’s worth a matinee ticket.

** Wait for video rental.

* Check out the video from the library, if you must.

0 While I would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...

Mike Doughty

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