The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday January 25th

`Best in Show' Wins With Guest's Ensemble Cast, Dogs

Neurotic "parents" of pampered pups are placed in a stressful competition to win "Best in Show" in director Christopher Guest's new movie mockumentary.

Guest decided to make a movie about dogs and their stressed owners after taking a trip to a park with his own dogs. The cast of "Best in Show" was given a five-day crash course in how to work with the dogs in a professional and show-like manner.

With the same actors and format as one of Guest's previous movies, "Waiting for Guffman," the caliber of improv acting is hard to parallel. This creative liberty gives the movie a randomness that would not be possible if the actors were restricted to a rigid script.

Parker Posey plays Meg Swan, a spastic, uptight yuppie. She is overly concerned that her dog Beatrice is depressed after the dog witnesses her having sex with her husband Hamilton Swan (Michael Hitchcock), and takes the dog to therapy. Posey does a brilliant, yet all too believable job of being melodramatic and constantly in a state of frenzy over Beatrice.

Guest, besides directing, also played the role of another competitor. His character, Harlan Pepper, is a North Carolina mountain man, with all the twang and incoherence that the stereotype requires. Though Guest's role was not as centralized as his role of Corky in "Waiting for Guffman," he still is able to hold his own attention through his use of his bloodhound Hubert as a ventriloquist dummy.

Playing off the eccentricities of the competitors and their dogs, Fred Willard plays Buck Laughlin, one of the commentators of the show. Willard's improvisational talent is put to the test as he aimlessly rambles about each dog and handler. Quick-witted comments like "to think that in some countries these dogs are eaten," leave the audience wondering what he will say next.

The ensemble's skill is evidenced by their extemporaneous humor. The comedic brilliance demanded to create an off-the-wall, improvisational movie successfully shows the talent of all involved in the movie.

The photography, directed by Roberto Schaefer, optimizes each character's role; angles and close-ups of the dog's faces enhance the most unique and humorous parts of each scene. A hand-held camera filmed most shots.

Despite its similarity in format to "Waiting for Guffman," the new film isn't quite as witty and has more sexual overtones - one dog owner's sexual past is a recurrent topic.

Learning the quirks and background personalities of each character provides vital insight to enjoy the climax of the movie, the actual dog competition. The actors' improv lines create shock value and humor, which keep the audience laughing throughout the film.

The Arts & Entertainment Editor

can be reached at artsdesk@unc.edu.


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