Not So Best of Show

For Your Consideration. Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy, Fred Willard, Catherine O’Hara, Parker Posey, and Harry Shearer star in a film written by Levy and Guest, and directed by Guest.

Reviewed by Josef Woodard

Seemingly against all odds, Christopher Guest and gang have pieced together a signature cottage industry during the past two decades, in which celluloid improv and satirical incisors add up to a peculiar and very specific kind of cine-magic. But the problem with magic tricks is their fragility: one dazzling trick makes a lesser one — like the Hollywood send-up For Your Consideration — appear sad and wanting.

This is not Spinal Tap. But it’s ironic that Guest’s company has the least comic firepower on the theme closest to home for an ensemble which makes its living in the acting game. Maybe the pretensions and built-in absurdities of the worlds of heavy metal (This Is Spinal Tap), community theater (Waiting for Guffman), and dog shows (Best in Show) are fairer game, whereas irrational Hollywood is just too close to home for the objective distance necessary for a good satirist. It’s a parallax issue.

Part of the problem is that the basic premise, about the making and marketing of a film called Home for Purim (later de-Jewished to Home for Thanksgiving) and the lust for Oscar buzz, is too implausible. An everyday, realistic encounter with Hollywood’s dream ’n’ hype machine might have offered better food for farce.

We all have our favorites in the Guest ensemble, and this viewer was warmed by the usual surreal comic grace of the great Fred Willard (sporting a disarming “fauxhawk”) and the lovely, loopy Parker Posey, whose Oscar pipe dreams contrast with her penile-oriented standup act. Television’s John Michael Higgins does a giddy turn in a hideous toupee as a clueless publicist who babbles about the “world wide interweb” and the mystery of the publicity game, where you get “a little bit of fairy dust and pow, you’re off to the races.”

Regular-enough doses of rubbery humor and joy buzzer moments keep us awake and optimistic, but overall, the center doesn’t even form, let alone hold. Stacked up against high expectations, For Your Consideration is possibly the meekest and most disappointing Guest romp yet. Still, for diehard Guest fanatics and anyone seeking intelligent comic diversion in a movie theater not presently showing Borat!, run, don’t walk.

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