Dog Treats

"This is Spinal Tap" and "Waiting for Guffman"--the pitch-perfect pinnacles of the "mockumentary" form--have inspired one too many bad imitations like "Drop Dead Gorgeous." But just when you thought the genre had lost its sparkle, along comes Christopher Guest to remind us how good it can be. Guest, who played in "Spinal Tap" and directed and starred in "Guffman," gathers his best improvisational-team players for "Best in Show," a sharp-eyed satire of the arcane world of dog shows. While it may not be as flat-out hilarious as its predecessors, it's as smart, quiveringly alert and fleet of foot as a purebred pointer on the scent of fresh game.

The scenario is simple: we follow the owners and handlers of five dogs (a Weimaraner, Norwich terrier, bloodhound, Shih Tzu and standard poodle) headed for the prestigious Mayflower Dog Show in Philadelphia. The cast, which includes Parker Posey, co-writer Eugene Levy (as a man with two left feet), Catherine O'Hara, John Michael Higgins and Guest as a Southern bloodhound owner and aspiring ventriloquist, is uniformly wonderful. But best in show may have to go to Fred Willard as the dog show's boisterously inappropriate announcer Buck Laughlin. Guest seems to know just how far he can stretch reality without losing the crucial texture of verisimilitude. This is a comedy even cat lovers might adore.

Best in ShowWarner Bros.
Opens Sept. 27