Sean K. Cureton

Archive for November, 2016|Monthly archive page

Mascots: Another Christopher Guest Comedy

In Movies on VOD: Reviews and Recommendations on November 26, 2016 at 12:27 pm
Mascots

Netflix

Mascots (2015)
Directed by Christopher Guest
VOD Rating: Liked It

Christopher Guest served to define the contemporary mockumentary with his work on the classic 1984 satirical rock n’ roll feature This is Spinal Tap. Written alongside director Rob Reiner, and co-stars Michael McKean and Harry Shearer, Guest’s work on that classic work of pop culture skewering was like nothing else that had come before it. In its wake, Guest has become the director of several likeminded films that have seen fit to examine the eccentric characters that make up several sub-cultures of the modern world. From amateur theater performers in Waiting for Guffman, to professional dog trainers in Best in Show, Guest has a peculiar flair for representing the marginalized supporting players of real life. His latest movie, Mascots, manages to do a lot of the same for the world of professional sports mascots.

Centering on a heated contest for the World Mascot Association’s Gold Fluffy Award, Mascots playfully gets at the kinds of characters who might become sports mascots in real life. Filling out his roster of supporting characters with both returning collaborators and relative newcomers, Guest once again offers comedy fans a thoroughly worthwhile social satire like no other. Watching impeccable performances from Parker Posey, Ed Begley Jr., Fred Willard, and Jane Lynch makes the world of Mascots appear simultaneously hyperbolic and idiosyncratically startling. People’s actions are often incongruous to expectations, and in Guest’s hands those actions prove to be all the more surprising when they occur spontaneously. There is an undeniable effortlessness to the proceedings of Guest’s films in general, and Mascots sees the talent working behind the scenes in the making of one of his most accessible works to date.

As Owen Golly Jr., a Londoner hoping to take home the Golden Fluffy Award in a concerted bid for the attention and respect of his overbearing father – and as an independent achievement separate from his family’s legacy – English actor Tom Bennett is the clear throughline for the entire affair. Immediately sympathetic and patently buffoonish all at once, Owen’s story is the easiest to cheer for throughout, as the rest of the film’s cast of characters prove to be far too preposterous to be taken entirely seriously. Ed Begley Jr. plays a perfect Christopher Guest character as a former mascot famous for bearing an anatomically correct male sex organ, but the jokes associated with his performance never prove to be as heartfelt as Owen’s. Likewise, Parker Posey and Fred Willard provide brief turns that feel far too broadly sophomoric to ever really land with the same gravitas that they’ve provided in past Guest features. Mascots knows why its subject matter might be funny, but never really goes about understanding the human core from which that humor derives.

In the critically underrated 2013 HBO series Family Tree, Guest delivered what is perhaps his most empathetic comedy effort to date. Over the course of a mere eight episodes, co-creator and star Chris O’Dowd offered viewers a moving quest for personal connection with a genealogical past undertaken by the near Dickensian protagonist Tom Chadwick. Unfortunately, the show was cancelled after one season, and Guest was soon left to his own devices to write the script for a new feature length production. In that light, Mascots feels a little too safe for Guest’s own good. It lacks a lot of the bite of past efforts like For Your Consideration while abandoning the humanism newly found in his most recent career high, even if it’s just as funny as anything he’s ever done.

Mascots is currently available on Netflix, and is my Movies on VOD: Recommendation of the Week.