A new Christopher Guest movie, another mockumentary at that, is certainly cause for celebration. It has been more than a decade since the last Guest movie and even longer since he has done a mockumentary. After the trio of Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show and A Mighty Wind, any Guest mockumentary would be worth watching. Mascots is good, giving viewers more of what his earlier movies delivered. The problem with it, though, is that it doesn’t deliver anything more nor does it do anything better than those previous films. It is new Guest, but it is not the best Guest.
Many of his usual players return for this one. The cast is filled with the likes of Jane Lynch, Ed Begley Jr., Fred Willard and Parker Posey. They all give fun performances, crafting characters in some small parts. Then there are the new additions, like Chris O’Dowd and Zach Woods who do a lot of the heavy lifting. Tom Bennett, who was amazing earlier this year in Love & Friendship, plays the closest thing this film has to a straight man and still manages to stand out in this excellent cast.
The set up for Mascots is nearly identical to that of Best in Show; an eclectic group of contestants vie to excel in a competition that really only matters to them. This movie is about sports mascots fighting to win a Fluffie award from an awards show that if things go well it might just be televised next year. In mock interviews they unwittingly reveal who they are. There is the sad sack (Peter Moynihan) and the bad boy. There is Posey’s Cindi Babineaux, an altogether too earnest Southern Belle with a makeshift armadillo costume and an off putting modern dance routine. There are the Murray’s (Woods and Sarah Baker) a married team of mascots that clearly hate each other. It is frequently chuckle worthy, but rarely inspiring full laughs.
What the movie is missing from Mascots that Guest’s earlier work had is affection. It is the same sort of collection of obsessed weirdos, but they were still human. Harlan Pepper from Best in Show was strange and obsessive, but in a way that is relatable to anyone with a hobby they love. In that same movie, Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara played a dorky married couple, but there was heart behind their eccentricities. I think the lack of those two regular Guest players, Levy and O’Hara, is why this movie doesn’t quite stack up with previous efforts. The heart just isn’t there. This is just watching sad people flail sadly.
There is still a lot to like about the movie. The routines at the end are enjoyable, as are many of the little off the cuff conversations that crop up in various scenes. It can’t quite escape the feeling of being a greatest hits album of a movie. It has all the things you want to see in this sort of movie, but doesn’t have anything new to offer. While it will be hard to displace the best of his movies, Christopher Guest and company doing their thing at even this level is very welcome.