BFI London Film Festival: Mascots

Directed by Christopher Guest

Starring Jane Lynch, Parker Posey, Christopher Guest, Fred Willard, Ed Begley, Jr., Christopher Moynihan, Don Lake, Zach Woods, Chris O’Dowd, Bob Balaban, Jennifer Coolidge, Michael Hitchcock, John Michael Higgins, Tom Bennett, Jim Piddock and Maria Blasucc
On Netflix from October 13th, 2016

by Joanna Orland

It’s been a decade since Christopher Guests’ last mockumentary film For Your Consideration hit the big screen.  The man responsible for such classics as Waiting for Guffman, Best In Show, A Mighty Wind and This Is Spinal Tap is now back with his latest, Mascots, a Netflix production due for the small screen October 13th.

More humanizing than humorous, Mascots explores the world of amateur sports mascots as they compete with each other for the top prize in the international mascot awards known as ‘The Fluffies’.  The film holds the typical Guest mockumentary structure, beginning with interviews of each of the key characters as we get to know them and their hilarious quirks.  The middle has a bit of plot as they arrive in Anaheim to partake in the competition.  The third act is the awards show itself.  We go from laughing at the characters in the first act of interviews to empathizing and rooting for our favourites in the competition, while finding the humour in the absurdity of it all.

The standout character is the only British competitor, Owen Golly Jr. played by Tom Bennett who seems to steal every movie he stars in.  He was absolutely ingenious in Love & Friendship and in Mascots he is the most endearing by far.  Playing a bit on his Britishness for humour, he never missteps in another excellent performance.

The other character highlight is played by Guest himself in the form of Corky St. Clair – the beloved character Guest originated twenty years ago in one of his greatest films, Waiting for Guffman.  It’s a very small role for Corky this time, but it’s nice to see that twenty years after the story of Waiting for Guffman, Corky hasn’t given up his love of amateur performance.  It’s great to have him back on the screen, but it would have been even better if he had a larger role and more of his backstory of the past twenty years revealed.  The presence of Corky, while wonderful to see, also had an adverse effect as it reminded me that Mascots is missing that special something that Guffman had.  Some of this is in the form of Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara, longtime Guest collaborators notably absent from this film.

Even without Levy and O’Hara, there were still a large number of familiar faces from previous Guest films, Jane Lynch most notable with one of the funniest roles in the film.  The Guest newcomers held their own alongside the veterans, although some were a bit more rough around the edges than others.  I’m mostly referring to Zach Woods and Sarah Baker as a married couple who never did become likable and humanized like the other odd characters.  This comes as a surprise as I normally love Zach Woods in everything he’s done, but these two are deplorable characters.

What’s special about all of Christopher Guests’ films is the script.  Guest and his cowriters write detailed character backstories for everyone and a thorough outline of the story with key plot points for each scene.  The dialogue, however, is improvised.  It’s the actors’ improvisation that truly allows them to embody and humanize their characters, even in the absurdest of situations – Mascots certainly has some of them.  No other director can get this out of a cast, and for that, Mascots is a triumph.



One Response to “BFI London Film Festival: Mascots”

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