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For his first film in approximately a decade, Christopher Guest relies heavily on a format that worked very well in the past. Mascots essentially is a slight riff on Guest's own Best In Show -- though, if you are going to choose a comedy to copy, Show is an outstanding choice. The new feature is such a warm blanket of nostalgia that you shouldn't be surprised when one of Guest's old characters pops up, unexpectedly.
Because this can be considered a spoiler for Mascots, I'm putting the rest of this article underneath a spoiler warning. You have been warned.
Mascots, much like Best In Show, follows a parade of not-so-innocent rubes as they prepare for a comically cutthroat competition. As the title implies, the gentle idiots in Christopher Guest's latest satire specialize in the art of mascoting, usually for high school, college or minor league teams in rural Middle American states. Long-time Guest ensemble player Parker Posey plays an over-the-hill competitor who is returning to The Fluffies, the World Mascot Association's championship event. And she brings along her personal trainer: Corky St Clair (played once again by Guest).
Who? If you are asking that, you haven't been with Guest since his earliest days. Corky St. Clair was Guest's creation for his 1996 masterpiece, Waiting For Guffman. The director of a small-town community theater, St. Clair lost his wits, and his mind, when he believed that a big-time Broadway scout would be attending his production of Red, White and Blaine. Plans don't fall in Corky's favor.
Corky arrives in the middle of Mascots, and it's right in line with the "as good as it used to be" motif of Christopher Guest's first collaboration with Netflix. Believing that his formula isn't broken, Guest re-employs the mockumentary approach of candid, improvised interviews with eccentric characters portrayed by dry, sharp comedic pros. Familiar faces to the Guest-verse include Jennifer Coolidge, Jane Lynch, Bob Balaban, Ed Begley Jr., Fred Willard and John Michael Higgins. Newcomers such as Zach Woods (In The Loop, Silicon Valley) Susan Yeagley and Tom Bennett quickly figure out how to play in Guest's intelligent sandbox.
But the Corky St. Clair cameo goes one step further. The character's presence in Mascots proves that there really IS a Guest-verse, and the mind spins with crossover possibilities. Could Guest's next comedy follow Spinal Tap on tour with Mitch (Eugene Levy) and Micky (Catherine O'Hara) of A Mighty Wind? I'm salivating. Move over Marvel. The Guest Cinematic Universe just launched with Mascots. We're so on board.