Saturday, October 29, 2016
Director: Christopher Guest
Writers: Christopher Guest and Jim Piddock
MASCOTS is the latest film from Christopher Guest. In the style of his previous films WAITING FOR GUFFMAN (1997), BEST IN SHOW (2000), A MIGHTY WIND (2003) and FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION (2006), it's a semi-improvised comedy look at a variety of odd individuals brought together for a niche activity, this time a competition for the World Mascot Association. Unlike those previous films, this one was released direct to streaming video site Netflix, rather than widely released theatrically.
I really liked Guest's previous efforts in this field (as well as of course THIS IS SPINAL TAP (1984), which was directed by Rob Reiner but co-written and starring Guest and defining a lot of this mocking documentary, mockumentary if you will, style). This new one has a lot of what I liked in those movies, but based on the first viewing it seems to be missing something. I'm not sure of the details of Guest's working style, if he has an overall through-line and emotional heart of the story going into filming, or if he finds it in the editing of the largely improvised dialogue, but this movie doesn't seem to have that. As a collection of wacky antics of some oddballs who are totally oblivious to their own insanity, which is also a major aspect of the earlier films, it's very successful (and the cast, with most of Guest's regulars and some talented new faces, was top notch). It was the funniest new movie I'd seen in a long while, maybe even since FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION. But I'm not sure it holds together as a movie, as opposed to a very good collection of inter-related sketches.
I'd also have to go back and check, but there were a handful of scenes in here that I didn't really buy as "documentary footage". There's always some leeway on that in these kinds of movies (you sometimes have to accept that there are apparently several dozen camera crews following each cast member for a supposedly low-budget shoot), but this one seemed to violate the format in ways that the others didn't.
I'll probably watch it again in a year or two, to see if it had something I just missed. Guest's more than earned that benefit of the doubt. And I have no hesitation in recommending anyone else watch it.