A national competition where sports mascots gather for a coveted title is the perfect setting for everything that makes Christopher Guest’s mockumentaries great. There are self-important people deluding themselves they’re engaged in a pursuit anyone else cares about, barely-acknowledge tensions simmering below the surface of marriages and professional partnerships pitched perfectly by very talented comic actors and at least a couple of completely clueless participants.
If you liked A Mighty Wind, Best in Show or Waiting for Guffman you’ll feel instantly comfortable with the format Guest takes with Netflix production Mascots, a blend of talking head interviews with the characters as well as fly-on-the-wall footage of their trials and tribulations as they prepare for the big forthcoming event.
In this case it’s the annual confab of the national mascotting championships, where the people who dress up as creatures and characters to cheer on sports games meet to compete for the highest honours their field can bestow.
It starts by introducing us to a very Guestian cast of characters. There’s the soft-spoken half of the husband/wife duo (Zach Woods) who can’t keep it in his pants, the ‘phallically challenged’ elder statesman of the industry and a senior judge (Ed Begley Jr), the breathlessly stupid mascot trainer (Fred Willard) and the pro dancer who takes it all way too seriously (Parker Posey) – among many others.
A few new faces join the regular talent roster of Guest’s films like Woods and Chris O’Dowd but all his regulars are there – that’s even Harry Shearer’s voice as the competition announcer.
While it’s classic Guest, it has a problem you don’t often hear about movies nowadays – if anything it’s too short. Netflix has been gratifyingly easygoing about the running times of its projects, and while Guest takes his time setting up the world and characters, Mascots feels like it races through everyone’s various resolutions as if it wants it all over with. There are a lot of characters to jump between, but he’s never had trouble giving them all room to breathe before.
If you like the style of his films and appreciate this kind of comedy it will leave you slightly wanting, because the rest of the movie up until then has contained everything you love about his work.