Christopher Guest is one of a kind. The writer/director/producer/actor carved out a niche of his own in the filmmaking community with the brilliant 1984 comedy This Is Spinal Tap, directed by Rob Reiner, and went on to helm a string of comedy hits himself in his distinctive “mockumentary” vein. Though all of his films have something great and unique to offer, there’s something particularly special about 2000’s Best in Show. The film’s characters are ridiculous and at times loathesome, but there’s a sincerity to the picture that prevents things from ever becoming too cynical. The result is a delightfully hilarious comedy classic. Hit the jump for my review of Best in Show on Blu-ray.
With Best in Show, Guest takes his “mockumentary” style to the world of prestigious dogs shows. In a style that has since become commonplace, the camera work is staged like a documentary, but we never get a look at the documentary crew members and they are never referred to directly. This gives audiences a fly-on-the-wall look into the lives of these rich, ridiculous characters, and the voyeuristic quality only enhances the film’s spot-on sense of humor. The ensemble is filled out with Guest regulars like Eugene Levy (who co-wrote the script with Guest), Catherine O’Hara, Parker Posey, Michael McKean, Fred Willard, and Jennifer Coolidge, and each actor brings their A-game for the improv-driven dialogue.
The hilarity of Best in Show is undeniable, but Guest also manages to get in a bit of satire with his “Catalog People” couple. Posey and Michael Hitchcock’s obsession with all things Starbucks and L.L. Bean is a cultural snapshot of the early 2000’s, and though it feels a bit outdated now, the jokes still land. Guest manages to explore a number of different kinds of relationships throughout the film, as all of the central dog owners/handlers are couples in one way or another. Coolidge is brilliant as an aloof gold digger and steals damn near every scene she’s in, while Guest himself turns in some of the best dialogue-driven tangents.
There’s really not a weak link in the entire film, and while some of the culture-centric jokes feel a bit dated in hindsight, they’re no less funny. Ten years later, Best in Show stands as one of the best comedies in recent memory and a highlight of Guest’s impressive filmography.
The Blu-ray is presented in 1080p 1.85:1. Sadly, the visuals of the Blu-ray aren’t great. This is largely due to the fact that Guest shot the pic on 16mm with natural light, a result of the film’s documentary aesthetic and budget constraints. You’re not gonna get Fincher-level quality here, but this is likely the best the film will ever look as the transfer accurately reflects the director’s intent. As for the audio, it’s presented in DTS-HD 5.1 and, while unremarkable, is serviceable for such a dialogue-driven film. There are no obvious issues to be found.
Though the Blu-ray lacks any sort of featurettes or looks behind-the-scenes, it does include an audio commentary by Guest and Levy that’s particularly entertaining. The two talk about how they crafted an outline of the script before letting the castmembers loose with improv and relay stories of scenes/material that didn’t make the final cut.
Speaking of which, the other main extra on the disc is a collection of 17 deleted scenes. As the film was shot with loads of improv, Guest had hours and hours of footage to sift through when putting the finished cut together. These scenes are a great look at some really funny material that didn’t fit into the final film for one reason or another and are most definitely worth a watch.
Though the visuals are unimpressive, this Blu-ray release of Best in Show is likely the highest quality version of the film that we’ll see. Thusly, if you’re a fan of the pic, this Blu-ray is worth a buy. It has a very high rewatchability factor and the deleted scenes and audio commentary make for worthwhile bonus features. If you catch this one on sale, spring for it.