Even after his patented mockumentary style was co-opted by countless TV shows, there’s still only one Christopher Guest. His latest comedy, ‘Mascots’, serves up almost everything you could want from one of his hysterical and humanist productions (plus Fred Willard, who’s in the running for funniest human who ever lived).
Guest is practically the Stanley Kubrick of comedy. That’s not to say that he’s an obsessive-compulsive perfectionist (although, I sadly don’t know him personally, so maybe?) whose movies are designed to be studied frame by frame. No, it’s more just that he tends to work on his own schedule and terms. He may disappear for years at a time, but you can always be certain that when he returns, it’ll be with another comedy only he could make that’s kind of perfect and unlike anything else.
‘Mascots’ centers on a sports mascot competition and the Christopher Guest formula takes over from there. Aside from Eugene Levy or Catherine O’Hara, most of the Guest regulars show up, including Jane Lynch and Ed Begley, Jr. as a pair of feuding judges, John Michael Higgins as an arrogant Gluten Free Channel exec, Parker Posey as a pretentious mascot, Bob Balaban and Jennifer Coolidge as an unconventional couple, Fred Willard as a predictably insane coach, and even the unexpected return of a certain character from ‘Waiting for Guffman’. However, most of the main cast are new and even get the biggest laughs, including Chris O’Dowd as the self-appointed “bad boy of mascoting,” Zach Woods and Sarah Baker as a delightfully unhappy couple, and the hysterical Susan Yeagley (who probably steals the whole movie). They all get to bump into each other through a series of hilarious improvised episodes and then the competition provides an arc and climax to contain all the funny.
The laughs pile on consistently with some unbelievably hysterical scenes. Guest has lost none of his knack for this brand of humor and ‘Mascots’ easily tops ‘For Your Consideration’ purely on giggle count. However, the movie ultimately feels like a party for the cast and nothing more than a goofy good time. The humanity and emotion of ‘Guffman’ or ‘A Mighty Wind’ is all but absent this time. The characters are still lovable, just not deep enough to give the film any weight. It feels more like a lark. That’s fine given that the movie has more than enough big belly laughs to justify its existence. Hopefully, next time Guest will dig a little deeper, because when he’s able to squeeze a human story out of these live-action cartoons, the magical results are hard to top. Thankfully, few filmmakers are funnier, and that’s more than enough to make this a success even if it likely won’t resonate as deeply as Guest’s best work.
[Note: ‘Mascots’ will premiere on Netflix on October 13th, 2016.]