People like Christopher Guest's improv-based comedies — This Is Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind — in a peculiarly self-satisfied way, confident that enjoying them means they’re in on a sophisticated joke that the ordinary Adam Sandler–liking rabble don’t get. Yet for all their small joys, Guest's films make me wish they had big ones — bigger laughs, sharper satire, more narrative drive. The actors automatically raise a smile because we've loved them so many times before. But are they the best judges of their material? I had secret doubts — and A Mighty Wind made it OK to say them out loud.
Still, For Your Consideration seemed a sure thing. But the result is an in-joke without a punch line — one that seems even more impotent due to the proximity of Borat, a satire that actually has something to say and is freakin' hilarious besides. The idea here is that a small feature with a cast of minor names is being shot with no great expectations when suddenly Oscar rumors start floating around, putting all concerned into an anticipatory tizzy — most notably has-been actress Catherine O'Hara, hungry newcomer Parker Posey, Guest's own temperamental director, and Eugene Levy's conniving agent.
So far, so OK. Guest and his most loyal creative partners here (Levy, O'Hara, Fred Willard) have on average logged over three decades on film and TV. They must have experienced more than a few troubled shoots and monumental egos. Yet the major characters here are blandly nice, none more than mildly eccentric. And the Oscar-buzzed movie they're shooting, Home for Purim, parodies the kind of stagy, earnest, wannabe Arthur Miller prestige project that has been DOA since the ’70s. And back then it would have been a PBS or Hallmark Hall of Fame special.
The only scenes attuned to today's showbiz — not coincidentally, the funniest here — lampoon empty-hype Entertainment Tonight–type shows, with Willard and Jane Lynch as breathlessly excitable hosts. Elsewhere, For Your Consideration seems to have been made by fogies — it's stiff jointed and embarrassingly proud of limp drollery that seldom pays off in real laughs. Like Home for Purim, this movie thinks it's Oscar material. But it's not even the stuff Golden Globes are made of. (Dennis Harvey)
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
Opens Fri/15 in Bay Area theaters
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