Christopher Guest stood atop the mountain, cutting a fine figure against the hazy sunset and lush forestry behind him, and raised his horn to his lips. With every last ounce of his strength he blew, and with that, an almighty note sounded across the land, a note so resonant that every creature - from the smallest shrew to the most beautiful eagle - could not escape its beauty. Improv comedians up and down the nation stood to attention, their ears pricked by the sound for which they had longed to hear. Dropping what they were doing immediately, they ran to their master's side to join him on his quest. The comedians gathered beneath Guest's powerful silhouette until he could count their numbers no longer. Turning his broad shoulders to face the masses, Guest stared down at his assembled team and allowed himself a wry smile - his latest adventure was about to begin.
In other words, Christopher Guest's latest improvisational comedy is finally here. The man who made Spinal Tap rock, Best In Show bite and A Mighty Wind
sing has returned and brought with him his trusty comedy troupe once more, this time to gently lampoon the movie industry, or more specifically, the furore that surrounds Oscar season. Although For Your Consideration differs from his previous works in that it's not shot as a mockumentary, it's still the same old team doing what they do best i.e. creating offbeat characters and forcing the most cringe worthy comedy out of those oh-so-awkward moments.
We're introduced to the cast and crew of 'Home For Purim', a tear-jerking Jewish family drama that's low on budget and even lower on quality. Veteran actress Marilyn Hack (O'Hara) is hard at work as usual when she's informed that an internet movie site has mentioned her name in connection with an Academy Award nomination. The news spreads around the set like wildfire and as the 'buzz' surrounding the movie gathers pace, the cast find themselves thrust rudely into the world of celebrity and conjecture. As Oscar night approaches, the 'Home For Purim' cast find themselves answering banal questions on morning television and bickering amongst themselves as more and more ridiculous rumours emerge.
Guest has never worked with scripts or your typical gag set-ups, instead letting his cast come together to create more off-the-cuff, organic laughs. This is the case once more, with the real comedy derived from the many characters that populate the movie set. You've got the old hands of Marilyn and her co-star Victor (Shearer), who trade wise words and terrible accents. There's the movie's publicist Corey Taft (John Michael Higgins, hidden under a bushy red moustache) who's 1/8th Mighty Choctaw Indian, while Jennifer Coolidge's busty movie producer plays to type as a ditsy blonde prone to putting her foot in her mouth (she only gets about four lines, but one of them is "I fell off the side of an escalator"). The whole team are present and correct, and although some characters are only given enough screen time for one or two interchanges, it's often enough. Aside from O'Hara's Oscar hopeful, the workload is distributed equally and it's a much better piece for not anchoring any of the 'stars' with too much baggage.
In choosing to shoot a straight-up story rather than fall back on his trademark documentary style, Guest has effectively kicked away his crutch. Although many of the best moments from his previous films came in the 'talking head' moments, it's nonetheless a brave move, and to his credit, you barely notice the change once the movie gets going. It is a shaky start, however, and it's not until the night of the Oscar nominations looms that For Your Consideration really kicks into gear. It's unfair to compare any movie to This Is Spinal Tap, but even compared to, say, A Mighty Wind, the laughs are drip-fed relatively slowly, with even the wittiest lines often lost among the improvised back-and-forth. Thank the comedy Gods then, for Fred Willard, whose mohawked entertainment correspondent predictably steals the show - quite possibly the funniest man in the world, Willard's comic timing is impeccable.
For Your Consideration is not Guest at his best by any means, but it's still an enjoyable way to spend a few hours and the company you'll keep is memorable enough. It suffers from being a little too silly at times (good actors playing bad actors never really works) and doesn't quite have as high a hit-rate as its predecessors, but it's still highly amusing and it's got a big heart - it makes a nice change to laugh at some playful ribbing from time to time, as opposed to people barfing up their tits or eating dog shit. Quaint comedy such as this is still welcome round these parts, so next time Guest toots his comedic horn, we'll still be listening.