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Best In Show Review

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From the Spinal Tap boys, this latest documentary is set behind the scenes of a dog show in America's Midwest. Quirky characters, clueless commentators and pampered pooches prevail as the competition reaches its peak.

★★★★★

Christopher Guest's latest foray into the world of 'mockumentary' - an area in which he's had plenty of practice - owes more to 1996's Waiting For Guffman than it does to This Is Spinal Tap (1984), given that it's focused on ordinary people doing something extraordinary in order to hog the limelight. While Guffman, however, was set in the world of amateur dramatics, Best In Show instead concentrates on a Crufts-like dog trial, which, if Guest is to be believed attracts some of the maddest contestants in the world.

Thus we have O'Hara as the terrier trainer who seems to have had a fling with every man she encounters; Levy as her long-suffering hubby who is, literally, blessed with "two left feet"; Posey as the uptight New Yorker whose much-cosseted pet even has its own psychiatrist; Coolidge as the ultra-rich trophy wife complete with decrepit sugar daddy - and so the list goes on. Anybody who has seen Tap or Guffman will be familiar with the territory - the difference being that it's all a bit hit and miss this time around.

Guest taps into the absurdities of his characters with the kind of satirical wit and accuracy you might expect, but too many of them are one-dimensional, stereotypical or (in the case of Posey, for example), just plain annoying. Things liven up in the final act, thanks to the commenting double-act of Jim Piddock and Fred Willard, and the pooches, all of them gloriously silky-haired and healthy-looking, nab enough of the limelight to keep dog fanciers happy. While it's refreshing to come across a comedy that offers gentle, subtle humour as opposed to the more popular outrageous variety, the overriding sense of déjà vu prevents this from scaling the heights of Guest's previous efforts.

It’s all perfectly watchable, and is a good deal more intelligent than many recent comedies, but it still lacks the imagination, edge and memorable moments that made Guest’s other ‘mockumentaries’ such a delight to watch. If you liked Tap or Guffman, the