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Film / Best in Show

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"Some pets deserve a little more respect than others."

A 2000 mockumentary film directed by Christopher Guest, written by Eugene Levy with Guest co-writing, and co-starring, besides Guest and Levy, Jennifer Coolidge, John Michael Higgins, Michael Hitchcock, Jane Lynch, Michael McKean, Catherine O'Hara and Parker Posey.

The movie follows five dogs and their owners who enter the annual Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show, and the unique relationship the people have with their dogs and with one another. Best in Show features a heavily improvised script that results in some wild tangents concerning everything from red pistachio nuts to a grisly description of a body being flung off a skyscraper.


This movie demonstrates the following tropes:

  • Anything That Moves: Scott at least hints at this trope, as he doesn't hesitate to ogle or flirt with anyone who catches his eye, despite being in a relationship with his partner Stefan.
    Hotel Manager: "We have you down for a queen [bed]."
    Scott: "What are you suggesting... my dear man?"
  • Awful Wedded Life: Meg and Hamilton. With both of them being the worst sort of entitled suburbanite, they get into screaming arguments with each other at the drop of a hat (or a dog toy).
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Meg and Hamilton fight throughout the entire movie but finally improve with therapy, as revealed by the final scene.
  • Beleaguered Assistant: Trevor Beckwith, the prim and properly British co-host to Buck Laughlin.
    Buck: "Am I nuts? Something's wrong with his feet."
    Trevor: "I never thought I'd find myself saying this, but you're right."
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  • Big Damn Kiss: Christy and Sheri Ann share one after Rhapsody In White wins best of her group.
  • Book-Ends: The film begins and ends with the Swans talking to a therapist about their problems with their dog.
  • Brick Joke: Gerry's two left feet.
  • Butch Lesbian: Christy is tall, short-haired, and sharp-featured, is always seen wearing somewhat masculine clothing, and is rather obviously in a secret relationship with Sherri Ann.
  • Camp Gay: Scott Donlan. By contrast, his partner Stefan is more of a Straight Gay.
  • Chekhov's Gun The scene in the Taft Hotel's utility closet seems unmotivated until Cookie and Gerry are later housed there.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Harlan Pepper is an upbeat redneck who seems to believe listing nuts counts as a talent. Though truth be told, all of the featured characters have varying degrees of cuckoolandedness.
  • Cringe Comedy: The scene where Gerry and Cookie’s credit cards are declined at The Taft is rather uncomfortable with watch. Which is of course the point.
  • Cuckoolander Commentator: Buck Laughlin, the ex-football player announcer.
  • The Dandy: Scott Donlan, who is always elaborately dressed, hand-makes his own leather pants, and packs seven kimonos for an overnight trip. His partner Stefan is also similarly stylish, but less attention is placed on it.
    Buck: "Look at Scott! ...if you live in my neighborhood and you're dressed like that, you'd better be a hotel doorman."
  • The Ditz: Buck Laughlin, in the context of dogs and dog shows, at least; his amiable enthusiasm for the events he's witnessing is matched only by his utterly cluelessness about the events he's witnessing. Although even taking into account his Fish out of Water position, he doesn't exactly seem like the brightest bulb in the box. And particularly since an offhand comment by Trevor Beckwith reveals that they hosted the show together the previous year—and Buck apparently managed to learn nothing.
    • Laughlin demonstrates idiocy in a variety of other areas as well, such as when he confuses Columbus' 1492 landing in the Caribbean with the Pilgrim migration to Massachussets.
  • Ethnic Menial Labor: In her search for Beatrice's missing dog toy, Meg screams threats of INS and deportation at the hotel's Hispanic maid.
  • Gallows Humor: Max’s monologue about a suicide victim who got decapitated during the jump.
  • Game-Breaking Injury: Occurs right before the final judging of the Dog Show when Cookie falls and injures her knee, requiring Gerry to take her place as Winky's handler.
  • Giftedly Bad:
    • The Flecks, who compose and sing songs about terriers to their dog Winky. What they lack in talent they make up for in obliviousness.
    • Harlan Pepper's ventriloquism act.
  • Hate Sink: While the other less sympathetic competitors each reveal themselves to have more likable traits by the end of the film (Sherri Ann, Christy, Scott, and Stefan all prove to genuinely care about their respective significant other and are amicable toward their underdog rivals), the Swans are never suggested to be anything more than the insufferable yuppie couple they are introduced as, and it's painfully clear from the start that the two use their poor dog as a distraction from their shaky marriage. Naturally, they are the only ones to not advance to the finals of the dog show, instead getting eliminated in the first round.
  • Hidden Depths: It's made pretty clear that, to varying degrees, each of the couples has thrown themselves whole-heartedly into the dog show and training their dog as a way of compensating for or avoiding some other tension or problem in their lives.
  • Improv: Guest has his actor improv from general outlines; where the scene starts and where it needs to get to is fixed, but the rest is up to the actors.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Scott and Stefan are both very catty, particularly toward Sherri Ann and Christy, but reveal themselves to be surprisingly cordial when interacting with the Flecks. To a lesser extent, Sherri Ann and Christy also come across as polite and respectful toward their rivals during the competition after having spent most of the movie to that point seeming rather cold and haughty.
  • Ladykiller in Love: Cookie is the female version. She can't go anywhere without bumping into someone she's had sex with, but she settled down and married a goofy, straight-laced guy, whom she seems to genuinely love.
    • Scott is more of a gentleman killer, saying he was the “big man on campus” before getting together with Stefan.
  • Large Ham Announcer: They make the dog show even funnier, as they're an Odd Couple - one a genteel English dog-breeding expert and the other a desperately misplaced American Football commentator.
  • Lipstick Lesbian: Sherri Ann, as revealed when she plants a kiss on Rhapsody In White's much more butch trainer.
  • Literal Metaphor: In their first interview Cookie and Gerry joke about his inability to dance and mention his "two left feet" — and the camera pans down to show that Gerry has two left feet. He used to walk in circles when he was a kid.
  • Mockumentary: It is a Christopher Guest film, after all.
  • Never Heard That One Before:
    Buck: I couldn't get used to being probed and prodded. I told my proctologist once: "Why don't you take me out to dinner and a movie sometime?"
    Trevor: (unamused) Yes. I remember you said that last year.
  • Nice Guy: The Taft manager is endlessly patient and kind to everyone, including letting Gerry and Cookie stay in a utility closet when their cards are declined and taking it on the chin when Meg yells in his face.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • The hotel manager (Ed Begley Jr.), when discussing the difficulties cleaning up after a dog show, mentions an unnamed rock band (probably a Spinal Tap reference). Details are sparse, and include only the comment that "they probably didn't realize there was a toilet in the room", as well as something about "roasting a goat," and how how hard it was to get the smell of charcoal and cumin out of the curtains.
    • Frequent un-elaborated-upon references to Cookie Fleck's past sexual history as she coincidentally encounters numerous former partners.
      "That was my first and only time doing it on a roller coaster!"
    • Scott and Stefan occasionally fall into this when hinting at their personal escapades.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • Buck Laughlin bears more than a passing resemblance to Joe Garagiola, the baseball player-turned-announcer who provided commentary for the USA Network's coverage of the Westminster Kennel Club Show for many years.
    • Sherri Ann Cabot is obviously based on Anna Nicole Smith.
  • Only Sane Man: Trevor Beckwith is a well-mannered gentleman and accredited expert on dogs whose commentary during the dog show is filled with sound observations and accurate predictions. He provides a sharp contrast to his co-host Buck Laughlin, who he unsuccessfully attempts to keep the bizarre asides of to a minimum.
  • Overly Narrow Superlative: At the end of the movie Sherri Ann and Christy get together and started "American Bitch", a magazine for "Lesbian Purebred Dog Owners".
  • Pet Contest Episode: The premise of the movie.
  • Really Gets Around: Cookie Fleck, before she married Gerry. To his suppressed but obvious frustration, they keep meeting her former partners wherever they go.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Catty Camp Gay Scott and snarky Straight Gay Stefan, respectively.
  • The Rival: While all of the characters are in competition with each other, the duos of Scott and Stefan and Christy and Sherri Ann appear to have some kind of personal animosity. Christy and Sherri Ann are the returning champions while Scott and Stefan also have experience in competitive dog shows, so it's likely that they see the other couple as the pair to beat.
  • Running Gag: Many of them, the most notable likely being Cookie's seemingly endless deluge of ex-boyfriends and Gerry's bewildered reaction to learning about them.
  • Serious Business: The Mayflower show is as serious as it gets.
    • The Swans, in particular, take the well-being of their dog Beatrice very seriously. At one point they're screaming vindictive to anyone in earshot while frantically searching for her favorite squeaky toy.
  • Shown Their Work: Jim Piddock (Trevor Beckwith) was instructed to deeply research dog shows to play his character, to the point where he was mistaken for an actual show dog expert. (Fred Willard, on the other hand, was specifically told to do none.)
  • Smarmy Host: Buck Laughlin fits this trope to a T, complete with inappropriately unfunny jokes, rambling tangents, and zero understanding of the dog show he's supposed to be covering.
    Buck: "Excuse me if this off the subject a little bit, but just take a guess at how much I can bench press."
  • Spiritual Successor: To Guest's previous Mockumentary, Waiting for Guffman.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone:
    • While Harlan Pepper and Hubert, who are presented as being just as much of likable underdogs as the Flecks and Winky are, fail to win the dog show, Trevor Beckwith notes that Hubert is likely to become a champion if given a few more years to mature.
    • After their humiliating loss at the dog show, the Swans finally seem to have made amends with each other through couple's therapy. They also have a new dog, suggesting that poor Beatrice was able to find a home away from them.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Masculine professional dog trainer Christy and ditzy Trophy Wife Sherri Ann, respectively.
  • Too Much Information: Gerry is often subjected to this when one of Cookie's old boyfriends starts recounting their past amorous adventures.
  • Trophy Wife: Sherri Ann Cabot is a spoof example in the Gold Digger vein, and, unusually, is cheating with another woman, not a man.


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