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Kennel Vision

In 1996's snarky Waiting for Guffman and now in Best in Show, actor-director-screenwriter Christopher Guest takes a scattershot approach to satire, putting so many freakishly absurd characters on the screen that you scarcely notice how little regard he has for them. This time, the targets of his faux-doc ridicule are pixilated dog-show rivals who converge on a national competition in Philadelphia. There's a pair of suburban status slaves (Parker Posey and Michael Hitchcock) with a neurotic weimaraner; a très tawdry, shih tzu-pampering gay couple (Michael McKean and John Michael Higgins); a low-rent, mismatched slut 'n' nerd duo with a terrier obsession (Catherine O'Hara and cowriter Eugene Levy, in cuckolded Elmer Fudd mode); and a lonely backwoods bloodhound owner with a yen for ventriloquism (Guest). The plot is trivial and meandering, and the only humor mined from the dog show itself comes courtesy of Fred Willard's gleefully moronic commentator. For Guest, the self-absorbed folly of the human mutts matters most. He and Levy do exhibit more affection for this ensemble than Guffman's, but Best in Show succeeds only insofar as you're willing to laugh at a bunch of sad freaks.


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