Fans of offbeat humor will get a big kick out of this follow-up to “Waiting for Guffman,” but there will be more appreciative, “Oh, that’s funny!” comments than outright laughs.
Director Christopher Guest has a repertory company of top-notch improvisational actors. He outlines the story to each of them and then pretty much lets them create their own characters and dialogue. This gives his movies a wonderful sense of depth, as it really seems that we are getting brief glimpses of real characters who are just as interesting when the camera isn’t on them. But it also means that the humor tends to come from small moments and from character rather than from jokes.
Guest appeared in the “mockumentary” “This is Spinal Tap,” on AFI’s recent list of the 100 funniest movies. He then wrote and directed “Waiting for Guffman,” a tribute to small-town theater (and boosterism). In his latest, he takes on people who participate in dog shows. While there are no moments in this movie that reach the inspired lunacy of “Spinal Tap’s” “It goes to 11” or “Guffman’s” “‘My Dinner with Andre'” action figures” and audition numbers, it is filled with great characters and memorable moments.
Parker Posey and Michael Hitchcock play uptight lawyers with braces on their teeth who get everything from catalogues. They show a neurotic Weimaraner named Beatrice, who just hasn’t been the same since she saw them having sex in a position they selected from the Kama Sutra (in a manner of speaking, another catalogue purchase). Catherine O’Hara is a delight as Cookie Fleck, a woman with a ribald past married to a man with two left feet (literally). One of the movie’s best running jokes is that almost everyone Cookie meets rapturously recalls some past encounter with her. Michael McKean and John Michael Higgins play the most stable, happy, supportive, and romantic couple in the movie, the owners of an adorable Shih Tzu. Jennifer Coolidge is marvelous as the owner of the reigning champ and the trophy wife of a wealthy, aged man, a cross between Lady Macbeth and Anna Nicole Smith. And Jane Lynch is sensational as Cristy Cummings, the dog handler who handles more than the dog. Guest himself plays a Southern bait and tackle store owner with a bloodhound. And Fred Willard appears as the hopelessly untalented announcer.
Parents should know that the movie contains strong language, sexual references, same-sex kissing, and adultery. Most teens will not be too interested in the material.
Families who do see it should talk about why the awards are so important to the dog owners. Who sets up the standards for judging these dogs, and why? Talk about the way the different couples communicate and resolve differences with each other. Which ways are healthiest? Can you tell anything about a character by his or her choice of dog?
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “This is Spinal Tap,” “Waiting for Guffman,” and “Party Girl.”