Christopher Guest is the master of the mockumentary. From his crucial role in This is Spinal Tap to his later films such as Best in Show, Guest has been able to create comedy gold with a roster of eccentric characters played by a roster of regular players with expansive comedy bonafides. It’s been a decade since Guest last made a mockumentary, 2006’s For Your Consideration which was probably his weakest effort. Now Guest returns to genre that he’s most identified with, this time lampooning the world of sports mascots with Mascots, which sees a bevy of oddballs in competition to take home coveted awards in the world of mascoting. It’s Guest’s funniest film in ages, probably his all-around best work since Best in Show. Mascots features many of Guest’s regular set of actors a bunch of new faces in a riotous piece of comedy genius.
The mascot competition in Anaheim, California brings costumed enthusiasts to compete from all around the country and all around the world. There’s the married couple Mindy (Sarah Baker) and Mike Murray (Zack Woods), a duo working for a minor league baseball team; the hard drinking, hard fighting hockey mascot The Fist (Chris O’Dowd); the longtime college mascot Cindy Babineaux (Parker Posey) who is joined by her long lost sister Laci (Susan Yeagley); the English soccer mascot Owen Golly, Jr. (Tom Bennett) who lives in the shadow of his domineering father Owen, Sr. (Jim Piddock); and Phil Mayhew (Christopher Moynihan), the plumber mascot of a college football team. The event that brings them all together is overseen by Langston Aubrey (Michael Hitchcock), stressing to ensure that entire event goes off without a hitch in order to impress the executives of the Gluten Free Channel, Upton French (John Michael Higgins) and Jessica Mundt (Maria Blasucci), who could televise the event in future years. Other oddballs in the vicinity of the event include mascot coaches like Greg Gammons, Jr. (Fred Willard) and Corky St. Clair (Guest). The judges for the competition include former mascots Gabby Monkhouse (Jane Lynch) and A.J. Blumquist (Ed Begley, Jr.), each with their own elaborate backstory and personal conflicts.
Mascots is a laugh-a-minute piece of work from Guest. Every one of these characters are thoroughly fleshed out with backstories and quirks that all come to full comedic fruition. It’s not just the competing mascots that are given their moments of comedy glory – the judges, the family members, the network executives, and the ringleader of the competition are given ample opportunity to elicit big laughs, and nobody disappoints. The constant bickering and distrust between Mindy and Mike Murray runs throughout the film, and culminates in a disastrous turn in the competition when it’s discovered that Mike has once again been unfaithful to his wife. Meanwhile, The Fist’s backstory involves getting banned from various stadiums and leagues for his boorish behavior, including the ghastly sexual assault of a team owner’s wife. Once again, Guest crafts a movie that feels like a comedic riff on the early work of Errol Morris, testimonials and flashbacks filling in the psyche of each these oddly charming eccentrics.
Typically, a Christopher Guest movie would really feel the absence of Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, and Michael McKean, but the blend of longtime collaborators and new faces mitigate those potential issues in Mascots. Other longtime players in Guest’s mockumentaries play minor yet effective roles, such as Bob Balaban and Jennifer Coolidge as a husband and wife duo that are major behind the scenes players in creating the mascot competition. For those wondering where Harry Shearer is in the madness of Mascots will be comforted when they hear his booming voice as the arena’s announcer.
Mascots features an array of comedic devices, with hilarious dialogue, situations, and sight gags that all are wonderfully effective. The anatomically correct mascot costume that Ed Begley, Jr.’s character is infamous for is a comedic sight to behold. And the frantic efforts of Langston Aubrey to keep the convention free of furries is a recurring gag that never loses its potency. For those worried, the jokes about the furries are by no means a form of kink shaming. The routines that make up the competition are themselves inventive and hilarious in their construction. Mascots concludes, as does Best in Show, with assessing the life changes that the characters have gone through in the year after the competition and operates as the comedic coda to Christopher Guest’s latest comedic masterwork.
With an A-list cast of comedic talent and a variety of gags, Mascots is one of Christopher Guest’s finest works ever, a madcap comedy that operates on the highest level possible in every conceivable facet. It’s truly a shame that Mascots is a Netflix exclusive because this would be a ton of fun to watch in a packed theater, an auditorium of raucous laughter. Even at home on the couch, Mascots proves to be one of the funniest films produced in 2016. Let’s just hope it’s not another decade before Christopher Guest brings us another piece of mockumentary brilliance.
- Overall Score
A laugh-a-minute mockumentary from Christopher Guest, Mascots is one of 2016’s funniest films, full of oddball characters and situations while featuring an impressive roster of comedic talent.