Directed by Christopher Guest. USA. 2006.

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Christopher Guest returns with his comedy troupe to turn his eye towards Hollywood as we look behind the scenes of  a film ‘Home For Purim’ which unexpectedly starts to garner some Oscar buzz and sets off some chain of events for the cast, crew and producers.   The fictional film is awful which makes it odd considering the entire cast get some award buzz.

The film opens with the ‘Hooray for Hollywood’ song and has five scenes introducing the key players and establishing their position; an actress and her make-up confidant; two publicists; an actor and his agent and a director and his protégé for example.  While you have one person working on the film they are paired with someone who embodies the cynicism of the machine.  From the outset though you see the shortcomings, the improvisational nature of the dialogue are largely based on character observations rather than the situation they are in; if Guest wanted to show the egotism of a Hollywood cast he did.

But I think there is a problem, the cast is too big.  Since ‘Spinal Tap’ where it was four people, the three in the band and Rob Reiner who carried the film and then moved on to Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show, the casts have got slightly bigger and now there are too many comedians pining for screen time.  This does not allow Catherine O’Hara or Harry Shearer the opportunity to push their much-needed roles.  Even Guest has to par down his role as a Jewish director, though he does get some of the better lines.  But to often the actors are hamming up to be remembered.  And then there is Ricky Gervais, who saunters on to stage asking for the Jewishness of the piece to be toned down.  This leads to the film being totally revamped, tellingly we do not see any scenes from the revamped version.

In recent years the tastes of US comedy have altered in terms of sitcom and big screen comedy.  The (American) Office, 30 Rock and Scrubs are all examples of new comedy, while at the box office the FratPack films and work of Ben Stiller and Will Ferrell gain kudos.  Is there any more room for what Guest does?  

For Guest I feel he has to make a decision between consistency or loyalty to his troupe.  In comparison to ‘Best in Show’ and ‘A Mighty Wind’ this is flawed and somewhat disappointing.  While not all of my criticism is aimed at Guest, he has to make a decision to either carry on or breakaway.  But I will leave that for him to consider.

Jamie Garwood
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