Have you ever seen that zany Errol Morris documentary, Gates of Heaven, the one about the pet cemetery and the people who have their pets buried there? Well, if you haven’t seen it, and if you like the documentary format in particular, you might want to check it out. But the actual reason why I mention that movie is because just like this movie, Best In Show (Christopher Guest, 2000), it’s central theme is coping. Yes, Best In Show has an extremely amusing context about a colorful cast of character’s entering their dogs in a competition, but underneath that, it’s really about coping. It’s about people coping with people, mostly, but it’s also about dogs coping with people. And ironically, how dogs (or any other pets for that matter) allow people to cope more effectively in the first place. Basically, there’s a lot of coping going on.
And behind all of this coping is the usual cast of brilliant comic actors who always seem to find themselves in Christopher Guest movies. Jane Lynch is great. Jennifer Coolidge is great. Catherine O’Hara is great. John Michael Higgins is great. Michael McKean is great. Parker Posey is great. They’re all great. They all have their moments. Especially Fred Willard who provides a volcanic amount of humor somewhere after the halfway point. It’s nonstop and it’s hysterical. “Tell me, do you know the difference between a rectal thermometer and a tongue depressor?”
But there’s a performance here in particular that I wanted to point out, and that is Christopher Guest’s. While watching Best in Show it occurred to me— and I could be wrong about this— but it occurred to me that he seems to the most chameleon-like of all the actors in this cast. By that, I mean, he’s consistently the most unrecognizable. He seems to disappear into his roles slightly more so than the rest, physically speaking. Which isn’t to say that the other actors don’t play a variety of diverse roles, because they certainly do. And it also isn’t to say that Christopher Guest is always the funniest character, because he isn’t, and he isn’t in this movie either. In fact, his character comes off as a bit sad to me. He’s very likeable. He’s cordial and he’s nice. But there’s a visible tinge of loneliness and sadness throughout, especially in the ventriloquist scenes. I guess you could say he’s coping with loneliness (aren’t we all), and luckily, at the end of the day, he has his dog to cope with.