Best in Show (2000)

2008 #15
Christopher Guest | 87 mins | DVD | 12 / PG-13

Best in ShowMockumentary from some of the team behind the perennially popular This is Spinal Tap. The target this time is the Competition Documentary, a genre of which the best comparable example I can recall is the excellent Spellbound (not the 1945 Hitchcock one). In this case, the film follows five sets of dog owners as they enter a prestigious dog show — an American Crufts, if you will.

The script, acting and direction always err just this side of believability, meaning if you came to this cold (and managed to not recognise any actors) you might be fooled into believing it was genuine. That doesn’t mean it’s short on laughs however — quite the opposite — and much of the comedy comes from the various recognisable character types. Not all of it mind, as many of the best moments are courtesy of a pair of commentators, who are always a good source for laughs (the first example that springs to mind is Dodgeball). Fred Willard does an excellent job as the poorly chosen sports commentator, and even his British straight man (in the ‘comedy double act’ sense), Jim Piddock, manages to grab a few laughs.

I reviewed This is Spinal Tap back at the start of last year, and while I enjoyed it (enough to award four stars) I found it often underwhelming and perhaps a victim of its own hype. No such issues with Best in Show. While it may not manage laugh-a-minute, its hit rate is above average, and what passes in between the gags is a surprisingly decent comedy-drama.

4 out of 5

Mrs Henderson Presents (2005)

2007 #31
Stephen Frears | 99 mins | DVD | 12 / R

Mrs Henderson PresentsJudi Dench is clearly having a whale of a time in this 1930s-set comedy about a 70-year-old widow who starts up a nude revue.

It begins as light comedy with a gently risque edge (rather in-keeping with its subject matter!), but things get a tad serious when the war hits. Luckily the film finds its lightness again in time for the ending, which is much more suited to the general tone.

All told it’s simply a bit of fun, but its overall quality just about nudges it into a four.

4 out of 5

Mrs Henderson Presents is on BBC Two tonight, Sunday 14th December 2014, at 10:30pm.

This is Spinal Tap (1984)

This is Spinal Tap2007 #15
Rob Reiner | 80 mins | DVD | 15 / R

I think my viewing of Spinal Tap may have suffered from years of hype. In some ways it was exactly what I’d expected; in others, not. There are plenty of funny moments, and the odd hilarious one (Stonehenge), but there were times when I felt a little underwhelmed by it.

Maybe you had to be there; maybe it is indeed a victim of hype.

4 out of 5

This is Spinal Tap is on ITV4 tonight, Thursday 18th June 2015, at 1am.