The promise of a new Christopher Guest film is better pitched as the assurance of a formula. The precedence Guest has set guarantees repetition is not such a bad thing with his mockumentary style birthing Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind and For Your Consideration. And not to forget his hand in writing and starring in the granddaddy of them all: This is Spinal Tap! With Mascots, a Guest film has become like a fireworks show: you’ve see one; you’ve seen them all.
Mascots follows various costumed competitors vying for the World Mascot Association’s (WMA) championship golden fluffy award. Guest and co-writer Jim Piddock make the silly premise a serious matter, which is where the humour thrives as the competitors and event organisers treat the lowly art form like it’s the Super Bowl.
Throughout his career Guest has mastered the comedic mix of a high stakes competition with low status characters, but it’s labored in Mascots to the point that it feels like the ensemble are improvising their way out of stale territory. Each scene is like wandering through a maze waiting to find the exit to a joke. Sometimes you wonder if you’ve missed the exit.
The cast rescue Mascots by trading on the endearing quality of their characters (and the Guests’ all-stars: Parker Posey, Jane Lynch, Jennifer Coolidge, Ed Begley Jr., Jim Piddock, Don Lake and Bob Baliban) navigating this odd world. The wholehearted commitment of the mascots to their craft causes small fits of giggles but the bigger laughs are on the administration side of running the competition.
The WMA officials (Michael Hitchcock is the standout) try to contain their composure while dealing with the invasion of furries cruising for sex and dealing with television interest in the event from the ‘Gluten Free Channel’ (John Michael Higgins and Maria Blasucci are a fantastic duo as network executives). Still, everything about the premise is halfhearted. Crazy sits on the fringes of the competition but Guest never allows for an invasion of the absurd; Mascots just coasts along.
Even Guest gets bored with his own style with the documentary format falling away to flip between backstage conversations and each mascot’s performance piece, each with their own gimmicks, but never memorable enough to justify the chunks of time dedicated to showcasing each performance.
Guest achieves dad-joke status with Mascots; the same faces, the same gags, the same set ups, the same polite laugher; dad, enough.
Cam Williams – Follow Cam on Twitter here: @MrCamW