After playing one of the leads in Rob Reiner's "This Is Spinal Tap," Christopher Guest went on to write and direct a series of his own mock documentaries, which rank among the biggest influences on modern comedy. (We wouldn't have had any iteration of "The Office" without them.) With "Mascots" now on Netflix, here's a look at his improv ensemble mock-docs, from worst to best.
5. For Your Consideration (2006)
Maybe it’s my own proximity to show business and the inner workings of Oscars campaigns, but this spoof of awards season rarely feels like it was made by someone who would, presumably, be able to satirize this annual insanity from an insider’s perspective. Catherine O’Hara, as always, is brilliant as an older actress who’s willing to do just about anything in pursuit of acclaim.
4. Waiting for Guffman (1996)
Cue the hate mail -- this comedy about small-town theater people with a dream of making it to the big time is a lot of fans’ favorite Guest movie. (It certainly set the template for his subsequent films in this sub-genre.) But Guest & Co. often hit below the belt, and "Guffman" too often feels far too mean for the relatively minor sins of its characters.
3. A Mighty Wind (2003)
There’s a lot of affection for American folk music in all its forms -- the genuinely heartfelt and the smiley, theme-park variety -- in this one. There are a lot of great gags (Jane Lynch as a wholesome singer with a notorious past stands among Guest's most indelible characters), but Guest has a hard time balancing affection and mockery; if the mock-docs ever flirt with actual heartfelt poignancy, it’s in Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara‘s performances as 1960s legends Mitch and Mickey.
2. Mascots (2016)
After a decade-long break, Guest returns with a look at the competitive world of professional sports-team mascots, mixing elements of earlier films -- like "Best in Show" and "For Your Consideration," the film is built around competition, and the hopes of impressing execs from the Gluten-Free Channel recalls the showbiz striving of "Guffman." Yet the film feels fresh and hilarious, with a cast that includes Guest regulars alongside some brilliant newcomers.
1. Best in Show (2000)
Guest at his best presents characters who take themselves and their oddball pursuits far too seriously, and the world of competitive dog shows provides the perfect backdrop, giving him and his actors rich material. For me, this is Guest’s funniest, wildest and most quotable work to date.