Sunday, October 16, 2016

Best In Show For Mascots: Christopher Guest's Latest Mocumentary Is Very Familiar!

The Good: Funny, Wonderful performances
The Bad: Overly familiar plot and tone, No genuine character development
The Basics: Mascots is Christopher Guest's latest reinvention of his same mocumentary formula . . . which harkens back to his first major competition-themed mocumentary.

Christopher Guest is a writer/director who has a very specific niche and with his new film, Mascots, Guest illustrates that one can effectively reuse their old ideas and virtually their same cast as prior projects and make the new work feel fun. Anyone who has seen Guest's mocumentary film Best In Show (reviewed here!) will recognize almost all of the notes used in Mascots. Mascots is a fake documentary that features the build-up to a fake competition for team mascots and the style is instantly evocative of Best In Show. That is not a bad thing, but given that the target audience for Mascots are people who like mock-documentary comedies and Best In Show is easily one of the definitive works in the field, it is hard for fans of Christopher Guest's works to watch Mascots and feel like they are watching something they have not already seen before.

It doesn't help the feeling that Mascots that once again Christopher Guest uses his core troupe of actors, like Parker Posey, John Michael Higgins, Jennifer Coolidge, Jane Lynch, and Bob Balaban. Guest brings in Christ O'Dowd, Maria Blasucci, Zach Woods, Sara Baker, and others to flesh out the mocumentary, but with the cast playing deadpan for most of the film, Mascots feels more familiar than fresh.

Opening in a Kansas doctor's office with Mike and Mindy Murray, where Mike is concerned he hurt his knee while performing as a mascot the night before. Langston Aubrey is preparing for the "prestigious" Fluffy Awards competition in Annaheim. Aubrey is excited about the Gluten Free Channel scouting the competition for the chance to get it televised in subsequent years and as the competitors for the professional mascot competition converge on the stadium. The mascots have a pre-competition party the night before at a local Mexican restaurant and up until the mascots go out, many are still refining their routines.

Aubrey becomes concerned when one of the mascots fails his drug test and the event is infiltrated by furries. As the competition progresses, the drama between the performers and the judges rises. The 8th Annual World Mascot Association turns utterly ridiculous . . . as one might expect.

Conflicts within the film include things like one of the contestants having a formal complaint lodged against her for a potentially insensitive mascot, bad sushi causing a contestant to have to use her alternate, a British contestant being late for the show because he was out driving on the wrong side of the street and a lovestruck mascot who has to perform for disadvantaged children . . . who turn out to be blind. The routines include such gems as a plumber mascot dancing with a poop mascot he pulls out of a toilet prop, a married couple of mascots who degenerate into a real fight during the competition and a dancing rabbi and a worm?!

Mascots is a study in earnestness and deadpan performances . . . with a modern dance routine thrown in for good measure. Mascots features a lot of actual laugh-out-loud moments - "my wife and I are doing this 'never go to bed angry' thing . . . so I'm just exhausted" - but the bulk of the humor comes from very dry deliveries with characters who say the most ridiculous things with an earnest and self-important quality.

Christopher Guest delivers on the absolutely ridiculous premise surprisingly well. Zach Woods and Sarah Baker are hilarious as a married couple whose marriage is so obviously bad that it is painful to watch. Parker Posey once again perfectly nails the whole idea of a batshit crazy character who absolutely believes in the importance of her reality. Posey is great, as is Tom Bennett's ability to both do physical comedy and deliver some of the film's most overtly funny lines with a straight face.

Mascots is not for everyone, but it is hard to take anything in the movie seriously - even the potentially offensive shtick performed by Fred Willard opposite Brad Williams. Willard and Williams have great on-screen chemistry and the exchange between their characters is incredible for how Willard sells his character's absolute dumbass insensitivity.

For those who are tired of rewatching Arrested Development or Best In Show, Mascots delivers. And for those who want to see a hilarious example of a deadpan mocumentary who have never seen Best In Show, Mascots is a decent film to get the gist from. But for those looking for something truly original, Mascots is not it.

For other Netflix exclusives, please check out my reviews of:
The Fundamentals Of Caring
Luke Cage - Season 1
House Of Cards - Season 2
Orange Is The New Black - Season 3
Daredevil - Season 2
Jessica Jones - Season 1
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt - Season 2
Grace And Frankie - Season 2
Sense8 - Season 1
Arrested Development - Season 4
Stranger Things - Season 1


For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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