By Christian DiMartino
Christopher Guest is a genius.
I must admit that I’ve only become a fan within the past two years, but his genius must be acknowledged (even though it wouldn’t be the first time). Who among us didn’t love Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman, A Mighty Wind, or the movie that put him on the map, This is Spinal Tap? Hell, I even like the one that most consider his misstep, For Your Consideration.
The man is a master when it comes to mockumentaries. Hell, he and Rob Reiner pretty much invented them with Spinal Tap. But now, ten years after Consideration, Guest is back with Mascots. Which, of course, should mean that it’s time to rejoice. It should mean this. But… it’s a bit of a letdown.
It’s not a film without pleasures, but yet considering a ten year break, considering the cast involved, considering its premise, considering its promise… I couldn’t help but feel like this film was missing something. Guest is very creative, and once again has some ingenious ideas and moments here. But yet, it’s a film that, overall, feels too familiar.
As he tackled dog shows in Best in Show and 60s folk music in A Mighty Wind, this time he’s got a new target: the world of competitive mascotting. See, that there shows that the man still has tricks up his sleeve. Who on earth would’ve conceived such an idea, other than Guest?
The film shows multiple people as they try to achieve their dream of winning “The Golden Fluffy,” a coveted award rewarded to the best mascot. Fellow players include a couple (Zach Woods and Sarah Baker) going through marital troubles, a mascotting vet (Parker Posey) nearing the end of her career, Chris O’Dowd as “The Fist,” which is just what is advertised, an English guy, and a guy dressed as a plumber.
Now there’s no denying that there’s laughs to be had at Mascots. Here and there, it shows shades of what made Guest’s work marvelous. But yet when all was said and done, and when the curtain fell, I couldn’t help but feel a tad… disappointed.
It’s certainly watchable. There’s never a boring moment and it treads along merrily. It’s also great to see most of Guest’s guests back. It’s certainly a bittersweet moment when we see Fred Willard sat, reading a dog magazine. As for the rest of the group, we have appearances from Jane Lynch and Ed Begley Jr. as judges of the competition, Bob Balaban and Jennifer Coolidge as… actually who were they? It’s escaping me. And even Guest himself reprises his Corky St. Clair role from Guffman.
What they do works. But the newcomers, like Woods, Baker, and O’Dowd don’t amount to that much. They try, but yet they lack the spark that someone like, oh, I don’t know, Catherine O’Hara, Eugene Levy and Michael McKean have. And in that, the movie kind of lacks a spark too.
Guest isn’t on complete autopilot here. There’s some good ideas for sure. But yet some of the ideas either don’t translate onscreen, or what might seem new is actually old. Because really, when it all comes down to it, Guest has basically made Best in Show all over again. In terms of structure, even in terms of some of the character traits, it’s the exact same thing.
Before Mascots, Guest’s last film was For Your Consideration 10 years before it. I don’t want Guest to leave. We need someone of his excellence. But next time he needs to crawl out of his comfort zone a tad.
Then, we will have something to cheer about.