'Waiting for Guffman' BD: Mockumentary About Small-Town Community Theater is a Best in Show on Guest List
The Warner Archive September 26, 2017 Blu-ray release of the Christopher Guest mockumentary "Waiting for Guffman" proves that there are exceptions to the rule that a comedy film cannot run longer than 90 minutes.
The 34-minutes of deleted scenes on the BD should make anyone familiar with the film to feel robbed regarding being deprived of those laughs. We can only hope for an art-house revival that reinserts those editing-room floor gems. Writer/director/auteur Christopher Guest particularly shines in a scenes in which his character Corky St. Clair discusses a favorite childhood story about a boy named Corky and a sperm whale. This monologue outConways Tim Conway.
The work of Guest and the improv. geniuses that he casts in "Guffman" and many of his other classic mockumentaries (including "This is Spinal Tap," "Best in Show," and the 2016 film "Mascots") provides enough fodder for several posts. One important aspect of this is that the earlier films predate the U.K. and the U.S. versions of "The Office" and other sitcoms that earn praise for the alleged innovation of producing TV comedies in the mockumentary style.
It also is worth noting that regular Guest star Fred Willard has a recurring role on the current TV mockumentary "Modern Family."
"Guffman" centers around the simple (in both senses of the word) and naive folks in the small-town of Blaine, Missouri. The overall concept of the film, the unique history of Blaine, the personalities of the citizens, and the bizarre murals that celebrate that odd past strongly indicate that this film is the father of the NBC "Must See" mockumentary "Parks and Recreation."
The preparations for celebrating the anniversary including presenting the play summarizing the history of the town around which "Guffman" centers. The very undistinguished New York theater background of St. Clair warrants him both local celebrity status and the "honor" of directing this extrazaganza.
Willard steals both the film and the show within the show as travel agent who only briefly left Blaine once in his life/community theater luminary Ron Albertson; fellow Guest collaborator Catherine O'Hara plays spouse/fellow travel agent/community theater co-royalty Sheila Albertson. Glimpses of this pair in past St. Clair productions (which include a stage adaptation of the film "Backdraft") are some of many highlights in "Guffman."
Guest regular and O'Hara "SCTV" and "Schitt's Creek" co-star Eugene Levy shines equally well as dentist/community theater newcomer Dr. Allan Pearl. One can only hope for the sake of Pearl that he never finds himself trapped in a paper bag.
Other characters in both senses of the word include Guest star Parker Posey as a 20-something who seems destined to work at a Dairy Queen the rest of her life, future "Middleman" Matt Kesslar as hunky Johnny Savage (who is hilariously oblivious to St. Clair perving on him), David Cross as "UFO expert," Larry Miller as the mayor, Bob Balaban as a high school music teacher, etc.
The film title refers to St. Clair receiving a positive response from a New York theater production company regarding an inquiry about sending someone to check out the show for a possible Manhattan staging. Producer Mort Guffman is the individual whom St. Clair and the cast anticipate attending their opening night performance.
Much of the film relates to the chaos associated with staging such a production; these calamities include a cast member dropping out at the last minute forcing St. Clair to assume roles for which he is hilariously miscast. Further, a conflict regarding the integrity of the production causes another walk-out.
This all leads to the hilariously awful play itself complete with sets that make actual high school musicals look like "Les Miserables." Only adding deleted scenes that center around a historic flood in Blaine would have made this portion of the film any more entertaining.
All of this ends in true Guest style in an epilogue that shows the lives of the characters a year after their literal night in the spotlight. A highlight of this is showing the extent to which the acting bug bites one of these nowhere ready for primtime players.
Suffering through a community production of "South Pacific" that required skipping the second act is a personal reference point for "Guffman." On a related note, the skill of Guest and his cast regarding acting so bad that it is hilarious takes real talent.
Other special features include audio commentary by Guest and Levy and the theatrical trailer.