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During the year 2000, I went to over 100 movies in the theaters and caught many more on DVD. While I'm usually able to see pretty much everything I'm interested in at the theater there are occasions when I miss a film I'm genuinely interested in. In the year 2000, 3 films come to mind as movies that fall in that category. Curtis Hanson's Wonder Boys, Darren Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream and Christopher Guest's Best in Show. After reading nothing but positive reviews of Best in Show I tried to convince my friends into seeing this film, however it didn't rate high on their lists. Now Warner Brothers has given me a second chance to be the Best in Show.

Best in Show
Movie
Best in Show chronicles the lives of several dog lovers who would do anything to win the Best of Show award at Mayflower Kennel Dog show held annually in Philadelphia.  Among them we have big city yuppies Hamilton (Micheal Hitchcock) and Meg Swan (Parker Posey), Bait shop owner Harlan Pepper,  a gay hairdresser (John Micheal Higgins) and his partner (Micheal McKean). Also entering the competition are Gerry (Eugene Levy) and Cookie (Catherine O'Hara) Fleck, a person who married an old man for money Sherri Ann Cabot (Jennifer Coolidge) and her dog handler Chrissy Cummings played by Jane Lynch

In the beginning of the movie we are briefly introduced to each one of these characters all of which who have one thing in common, a undying love for their dog and the need to win the prize. We learn that Meg and Hamilton feel that their dog is upset when they are intimate, Cookie was 'loose' during her high school years and how bloodhounds make the best pets.  As the couples reach the big show the comedic moments pick up  as Gerry and Cookies credit card is declined, Meg and Hamilton can't find their dogs favourite toy and Sherri Ann falls in love with with Chrissy her dog's handler.

The best part of Best in Show is not the simple story or any of the many comedic scenes, it's the performances. Director Christopher Guest has reunited many of his usual contributors from his hilarious movies Waiting for Guffman and This is Spinal Tap for this film.  Every actor in this movie is in top form and fits there character to a "T". From the overprotective and extremely paranoid Meg played by the queen of Independent Film Parker Posey to the gayest gay couple I've ever seen on film played by John Micheal Higgins and Micheal McKean to the country hick Harlan Pepper, the performances are top notch. Special mention goes to Fred Willard who has yet to disappointed me in anything as an American commentator who obviously isn't used to covering dog shows. Another performer who never fails to impress me is Eugene Levy who's career is now finally getting another push thanks to the huge success of American Pie in which he co-starred as Jim's Dad. It's rumoured that he took a $1 million dollar pay check to appear in American Pie 2. If this is true, he deserves it. There are a lot worse actors out there who make much more money. 

Another thing that should be mentioned here is that while Director Guest shares the official writing credit with Levy this movie like Guest's other movies are highly improvised. I don't think this film could have worked nearly as well without Guest letting the other actors run free with their characters, the actors in this film become the characters.  Like Guest's other movies the style of this film has a documentary feel to it.

While this film takes on a subject matter that may be of little interest to some and doesn't hold the same appeal as a look into the life of a fictional rock band (This is Spinal Tap) and the troubles of putting together a play in a small town (Waiting for Guffman), it's a funny look at a group of people who truly exist. The dog show crowd.

Best in Show
Video
Warner Brothers brings us Best in Show in it's theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic televisions. Best in Show was shot in 16mm and for that reason the image quality is not as good as one would expect from a recent theatrical release. The 16mm format is not as defined and is more prone to film grain then it's cousin the 35mm film format. While the differences were easily spotted on my computer, they were harder to spot on my television. Regardless, a lot of the interiors had a softer feel to them and colors were often muted. This film was shot in the documentary style and therefore it lacks the crispness of a 35mm style with slight amounts of grain and edge enhancement creeping into the presentation.  When compared to another 16mm release on the DVD format Kevin Smith's Chasing Amy it's heads above the quality of that transfer. This is the best I've seen 16mm look on DVD and if I hadn't known it was 16mm going in, I don't think I would have picked up on it. I would have just classified the transfer as average. Kudos to Warner Brothers for the transfer on this disc. It's a winner in it's own right.

Best in Show is not an overwhelming visual movie and the presentation here works to the movie's favor. 

Audio
Like all of Warner Brother's current releases Best in Show features dual English/French Dolby Digital 5.1 audio tracks. However in this case a mono track would have been adequate.  I think by labelling this track as 5.1 Warner Brothers decided that they would sell more copies as some people myself included are more inclined to buy discs that are labelled 5.1. Having said that the audio presentation on this disc is fantastic for what it is. Best in Show is a dialogue driven comedic movie and this soundtrack does an excellent job of keeping the dialogue up front, loud and clear. Occasionally sound breaks out into the front channels and I noticed one or two instances of rear speaker usage. Those expecting anything from the LFE channel will be disappointed as I didn't notice a single use of the subwoofer channel.

While Best in Show won't win any awards or shake the foundation of any houses, it sounds good and is free of any real problems.

Best in Show
Extras
Warner Brothers has labelled Best in Show as a special edition and while it doesn't have as many features as some of their other special editions it's still a good collection of features for a movie that didn't really make a major showing at the box office.

The main feature on this disc is a commentary from the director Christopher Guest and co-writer Eugene Levy. Christopher Guest the man behind This is Spinal Tap and Waiting for Guffman. I was looking forward to this commentary and was expecting the two veteran improv actors to go a little nuts on the track. Instead they opted for the more serious approach and while the commentary has it's bright spots, it was a tad disappointing for me.

Next up we have a collection of nearly 30 minutes of deleted scenes which are absolutely as funny as the rest of the film. However adding these back in would work against  the films favour as at 90 minutes it's length is perfect and doesn't wear out it's welcome.

Rounding out the extras on the disc we have the trailer in anamorphic widescreen and 2.0 sound along with cast and crew filmographies.

While this movie was overlooked at the box office it should gain an audience on video. If your a fan of Guest's earlier work or a fan of the film pick up this disc. If your not a fan you owe it to yourself to at least give this disc a rent as it's truly the Best n Show.


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