Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Movie Review: Best in Show

I watched this movie once before, years ago, before Elka was even a glimmer in her sire's eye.  Now, having owned her for two years, and immersed myself in at least the print version of dog culture, it was interesting to re-watch this mockumentary, directed by Christopher Guest, who also did such films as "This is Spinal Tap" and "A Mighty Wind".

"Best in Show" is about dogs, and their owners, preparing for The Mayflower Kennel Club Show, in Philadelphia.  Each of them, obviously, hopes to come away with Best in Show, from the Bloodhound (whose name I can't remember, actually, but that dog was a drooly boy), to the Standard Poodle, to the Weimaraner.  The dogs are all interesting to watch, of course, both from the "these are show dogs" conceit and also from the angle of canine body language.

Other than the Bloodhound, none of the main character "dog actors" seemed very connected with their humans.  The Standard Poodle behaved like a dream, but the Cairn Terrier and Weimaraner both paid pretty much no mind to the people.  Some of this is story driven, and perhaps some of it is just breed-based; Terriers can be rather independent, from what I've gathered, and maybe that's why Winky doesn't much seem to care who's holding his leash.

The people, of course, are the funny part of the movie, and the real drive of the story.  Other than the Bloodhound owner, who is single, the rest of the dog people are involved with somebody, and the movie at times does a fair turn at reflecting what human behavior can do to the dogs who are closely related.  

I was also amused at the costume choices for many of the dog handlers; no offense to the actual folks who go to Westminster and such in real life and do a good honest job, but frequently I find that female handlers at dog shows are dressed extremely frumpily.  The Standard Poodle handler in "Best in Show" was dressed the best, I felt, in pants and simple blazers, with good lines.  The Sheltie handler (not a main character) was perhaps the frumpiest.  I know it's hard to look smashing in sensible shoes and a just-below-the-knee skirt, and one's clothing isn't supposed to take away from the dog, but What Not to Wear could do a show handler segment or something (I apologize if this sounds insensitive.  As somebody not completely  immersed in the minutiae of breed conformation, I get distracted by such things.)

The other interesting thing to me was how the interest in the dogs seemed to fade post show (sorry if that's a spoiler. I hate spoilers.)  I mean, a lot of people dedicate a lot of time to preparing for a specific show, yes, but they don't hit only one show in their life, and if they don't win Best in Show, there are still points gained towards a championship for getting Best in Breed, Best Bitch, etc. Or maybe there's a nuance there I didn't get.  And the intricacies of dog championship are not things I have a full handle on; I'm using some crossover knowledge from my stint at The Cat Fancier's Association.

My main problem with the movie?  Not a single Doberman to be found.  What gives?

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