Waiting for Guffman Reviews
This particular movie follows a group of eccentric, quirky characters as they strive to put on a play to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the founding of their hometown, Blaine, Missouri. Leading them is Corky St. Claire (Guest himself), an exceedingly flamboyant man with the world's worst haircut, who moved back to Blaine after years of failing to become famous on Broadway. There's also the Jewish dentist Dr. Pearl (brilliant co-writer Eugene Levy), who dreams of being an old-fashioned vaudeville entertainer; Ron and Sheila (Fred Willard and Catherine O'Hara), travel agents who have never been outside of the town they live in; and Libby (Parker Posey), the sweetheart Dairy Queen employee who wants to be a star.
The movie relies entirely on its characters, who are all bursting with enthusiasm and sincerity despite their total lack of talent. It's easy to imagine this material coming across as mean, and in the hands of someone less delicate than Guest it might have been. But the movie, much like Parks and Recreation, allows us to laugh at the characters' goofiness without actually looking down on them as people. Guest has used this same group of actors in the projects he's made since this movie - Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, etc. - and it's easy to see why. They're probably the funniest group of people in contemporary movies. Watching them is kind of like watching a bunch of funny uncles and aunts. Eugene Levy elevates every movie he's ever in, and Fred Willard is just such an irreplaceable, funny, old-fogey presence. Catherine O'Hara is also quite funny in a less showy way, and Parker Posey actually has a lot of real charm that she lends her character. Guest himself is hilariously over-the-top as Corky, but he plays it sincerely, never winking at the audience. Apparently the movie is almost entirely improvised by the actors - Guest gave them the basic storyline and their characters, but let them come up with everything from there and then just edited the resulting material into a movie. This seems like a tricky way to make a movie, but I guess you can't argue with results like this.
The movie's humor is off-kilter, and unlike many bigger-budget comedies it doesn't have obvious cues for the audience to laugh. If you can get into the spirit of it, though, it's one of the funniest movies around. The way the facts we learned about the history of the town in the first half of the movie become the subjects of the play's songs in the second half is priceless. If you at all enjoy the mockumentary comedy of much recent television, you should definitely go back to this minor classic where the format really got started.