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Waiting for Guffman (1996)

  Directed by: Christopher Guest
Written by: Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy
Starring: Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Parker Posey, Fred Willard
Links: Waiting for Guffman on the IMDb, Official site, Buy on Video, Buy on DVD
Genre: Comedy

This movie gets: 9.33 (3 ratings)
nofreelist.com Ranking: Ranked equal 10th of 187 movies (2 ratings minimum; see full chart)

Waiting for Guffman (1996) is also mentioned in mino's review of A Mighty Wind (2003), andy-j's review of A Mighty Wind (2003), pearly's review of A Mighty Wind (2003), mino's review of Best in Show (2000), pearly's review of Best in Show (2000), andy-j's review of Meet the Fockers (2004), pearly's review of Napoleon Dynamite (2004), mino's review of Rushmore (1998), mino's review of Teddy Bears' Picnic (2002) and mino's review of This is Spinal Tap (1984).

"Improlicious" - a review by mino

Waiting for Guffman is very possibly the crowning jewel of Christopher Guest's trilogy of improvisational comedies. As the first made, it's certainly not as polished as the others. The production values are a little shoddy, and the whole thing feels a little bit ‘raw’; it's pretty clear that the members of the cast who went on to appear in the other two movies (Eugene Levy, for example, and Catherine O'Hara) were finding their feet a little, and they don't slip into the improvisation quite so easily as they do in Best in Show (2000) or A Mighty Wind (2003).

Is this a problem? Hell no. If anything, it's quite the opposite, because it makes it feel more authentic, and makes it all the funnier. Guffman tells the tale of an amateur theatre company in small-town America who are putting on a show for their town's 150th anniversary. Luckily for them, they have help in the guise of Corky St Clair (Guest), a local resident who used to work on Broadway (as he's fond of recounting). He assembles a rag-tag bunch of local stars, and when they find out that a big-time Broadway producer is coming to see the production, the egos inflate and the pressure is on.

As always with Guest's films, it's the cast that makes this movie. Each of the main castmembers is almost perfect in their role, creating characters who are not only hilarious but are also genuinely engrossing — you can't help but cheer them on and hope that their production knocks 'em dead.

Particularly notable in Guffman is the astounding Parker Posey. In Guest's other films, she's a fine performer; re-watching Guffman, you realise how great she is. Posey portrays down-to-earth Libby Mae Brown to absolute perfection, alternating between playing it perfectly straight when required to being ridiculously, hilariously silly. She's also, just between you and me, disturbingly hot. Fred Willard, while not at all hot, is the other standout: his sense of humour is perfectly suited to these whimsical films, and it's always his characters which provide you with the most memorable lines from each film.

There are some slight problems with Guffman — I think some of the sillier physical comedy doesn't work as well as it might, and a teensy bit more time could be spent on the plot, even though it's not really the focus of the movie — but otherwise it's near-perfect. The film is, if anything, a little too short: it does leave you wanting more. The deleted scenes on the DVD release, though, are of wonderful quality and really help fill the gap.

Waiting for Guffman is a genuinely hilarious movie, with comedy to suit everyone. Groanworthy puns, great visual gags, giggle-inducing parody, and the odd subtle joke that takes about 45 seconds to register. A real delight.

mino gives this movie 9 out of 10.
Review created on Mon 1 Mar 2004

"Waiting for Chuckling" - a review by pearly

Waiting for Guffman is full of the kind of humour that my dad would incorporate into a movie if he were ever to make one. This is a good thing. Just the kind of stupid stuff that's funny, but it doesn't necessarily make you laugh out loud, it just creeps up on you. Some of it does make you laugh out loud, but usually only after watching it for the third or fourth time.

Guffman is a Broadway critic who has promised to come and visit the small town of Blaine in order to watch their theatre production based around the history of the town. Corky St Clair (Christopher Guest), the writer and director of the play, reiterates to the actors just how big this news is, and they rehearse for the big performance, unaware that they are all actually quite crap.

The actors in the play are made up of Dr Allan Pearl, the dentist (Eugene Levy), the travel agent couple who've never been out of Blaine (Fred Willard as Ron, who had such a large member that he had to get it reduced, and Catherine O'Hara as Sheila, who has the most outrageous hairstyles you've ever seen), Libby Mae Brown (Parker Posey), who has quit the local Dairy Queen in order to star in the play, and Johnny Savage (Matt Keeslar), the local mechanic who may just be a little too macho for this performance. The cast is rounded off by a retired taxidermist named Clifford (Lewis Arquette) who is the narrator of the play.

Waiting for Guffman is, like all of Guest's work, a keeper. There's something new to laugh at each time you watch it, and there are lines that you're bound to adopt and parrot amongst your friends for months after having seen it. If you get your hands on the special features of the DVD version, there's also deleted scenes that give you more of those Blaine guys you just love to cringe at. Libby Mae's audition play about visiting a guy in the hospital is particularly funny.

If you're truly a talented actor, then working on a Guest film must be like a wonderful dream. The space that the actors are given to create as they go gives the film a wonderful life that it would have been difficult indeed to get out of a tightly scripted film. But these talented and naturally funny guys play off one another and, once edited, produce some wonderful stuff. Take note all of you so-called actors that play a part as though they're reading their lines from some auto-cue somewhere.

pearly gives this movie 9 out of 10.
Review created on Thu 22 Jan 2004

"Check out Corky's Funky Dance" - a review by andy-j

Waiting for Guffman is one of those movies that I don't think I will ever grow tired of. It tells the story of the production of a musical called "Red White and Blaine", which is being put on in the small town in Blaine, Missouri, to celebrate their 200th anniversary. Corky St Clair (played to perfection by Christopher Guest) is the very gay writer and director, and, though he is very passionate, emotional and hard-working, his musical is... well... pretty bland and boring. Corky's cast, however, adore him, and think he is God's gift to musical theatre.

Corky's cast includes Ron and Shiela Albertson, both self-proclaimed professional actors, Doctor Alan Pearl, the geeky but jolly local dentist who manages to surprise everyone by getting a part in the play, and Libby-Mae Brown, a very pretty but very spaced-out young waitress from the local Dairy Queen. All of them possess dubious talents when it comes to singing and dancing, but all have a lot of heart, and are quite convinced that they have all that it takes. Corky thinks so too, and decides to get a Broadway representative down to Blaine to view for the performance, with the hope that they will be able to take "Red White and Blaine" to Broadway.

Waiting for Guffman is a comedy, presented as a documentary, with very very subtle humour, some of it rather dark. It doesn't use very many one-liners or gags, instead it pokes fun at small towns, amatuer musicals, and the characters with their rather deluded views. We are introduced to the main players in such a way that they are very subtly in-your-face. Their personalities and characteristics are very well defined to us, but this is never done directly. So many things are hinted at, but never actually addressed. For example, Lloyd Miller (the musical director in the play) throws Corky some very dark looks, that suggest that he is far from impressed with the cast's efforts, but he never says anything. When the Albertsons and the Pearls go to dinner together (contrasting the stay-at-home Scrabble-club folk with the very smug and much more extroverted couple), the high level of awkwardness is hilarious, but no-one says anything to suggest it. They're just going out for a nice meal, but we know exactly what they're all thinking. The entire film is loaded with these sorts of things. There are also plenty of other little jokes that are left hanging (for example, the town of Blaine manufactures foot-stools and is hence proudly known as "The Stool Capital of America"). I also very much appreciate being allowed to draw my own conclusions rather than have them all shoved down my throat. I can choose, for example, to love Corky despite his faults, or I can think he's an annoying freak. All my choice - no morals, no consequences... it's just a bunch of stuff that happens. And every time I watch the movie, I can do it all over again.

None of this movie (except for the musical itself) was scripted - it was all performed on the fly. It is so intelligently made, faultlessly acted, and has such a warm, wonderful feel about it (plus Corky's Funky Dance), you can't help but love it every time you watch it. The DVD version includes some extra scenes and alternative endings, which are both brilliant and fascinating.

andy-j gives this movie 10 out of 10.
Review created on Fri 6 Sep 2002

Movie review statistics

Number of reviews: 3
Average rating: 9.33
Lowest rating: 9 (by mino, pearly)
Highest rating: 10 (by andy-j)
 
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