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Waiting for Guffman

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Waiting for Guffman

Starring: Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy
Director: Christopher Guest
Rated: R
RunTime: 84 Minutes
Release Date: August 1996
Genres: Comedy, Music

*Also starring: Lewis Arquette, Bob Balaban, Parker Posey, Paul Benedict, Matt Keeslar, Paul Dooley, Fred Willard

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Review by Steve Rhodes
3½ stars out of 4

"You know the old saying that if you don't like the weather, just wait five minutes and it will change?" says Blaine, Missouri's proud and ever confident mayor Glenn Welsch (Larry Miller). "I honestly believe that with hard work we can get it down to 3 to 4 minutes." Glenn has a lot to be proud of. Blaine, "the stool capital of the world," will have its sesquicentennial celebration shortly.

Easily one of the best documentary putdowns ever was THIS IS SPINAL TAP from 1984. I remember the show for Christopher Guest's line about his amplifier. You see, their rock band was louder, and a priori better, than any other because their volume knob went to 11 rather than merely 10.

Now Christopher Guest is back with another documentary parody, WAITING FOR GUFFMAN, which is just as good as his last. As before, he has a leading role and cowrote the witty and intelligent script. This time his cowriter is Eugene Levy. Guest directs the film as well, which illustrates his talents better than any other part he has in the picture. His comedic sense of timing combined with the hilarious script had me laughing so hard I thought I would burst. The film is in three acts with a delightful epilogue. The only criticism I have of the picture is that the second act drags some in comparison with the others.

Guest plays the lead as Corky St. Claire. Corky, who has a background in off-off-off-Broadway productions, has brought his talents to backwoods Blaine. Although his last production in Blaine, a staged version of the movie BACKDRAFT, had some unfortunate technical difficulties that forced the fire department to be called in, he has created a special musical for the town's big event. He calls it "Red, White, and Blaine," and casts a not-so-stellar local ensemble.

After an audition session where people do everything including reading lines from RAGING BULL, Corky chooses his players. The actors in his musical are every bit as bad as the actors in the movie are marvelous.

The first two members of the cast are Ron and Sheila Albertson (Fred Willard and Catherine O'Hara). They are a husband and wife singing team and Blaine's travel agents. ("Some people find it ironic that although we run a travel agency, we've never been outside of Blaine," confesses Ron.) Their mannerisms are so excessively cute that the whole show could have been built around their characters. Anytime either of them spoke, I started to giggle. Julie Carnahan's costumes for them feature iridescent running suits.

The third cast member is Dr. Allan Pearl (co-writer Eugene Levy), the local dentist who believes his destiny is as a stand-up comic. The actors in the movie approach the comedy so earnestly that I kept finding myself beginning to take the fictional documentary as factual. The more serious they became, the funnier was the humor. And no one was more sincere than Dr. Pearl.

Dr. Pearl's wife (Linda Kash), who is not in the play, explains the life of their family. "We don't associate with the creative types," she tells us. "We have a Scrabble club. We associate with people with babies." His wife looks upon the good doctor as her sage. "He has tried to help me change my instincts or at least ignore them," she proudly reveals.

Rounding out the play's cast is Dairy Queen waitress Libby Mae Brown, played with perky style by Parker Posey, auto mechanic Johnny Savage (Matt Keeslar), and the town's strange old buzzard, Clifford Wooley (Lewis Arquette).

The ridiculous musical with its tacky sets is reminiscent of the "Springtime for Hitler" musical in THE PRODUCERS, which remains as one of the funniest films ever made. The longest and best act of the movie is the third, which is devoted to the musical.

In a movie this good it is hard to pick out a favorite part, but for me it has to be the one where Corky shows us his movie memorabilia collection. His favorite, and mine, are his MY DINNER WITH ANDRE action figures. Certainly, Andre and Wally are the most improbable candidates for action figures imaginable.

Although I was sitting in a press screening with just four other people in the theater, I felt like clapping when the film ended. It is that good. A more delightful and good humored show I have not seen in a long time.

Copyright 1997 Steve Rhodes

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