The mockumentaries of Christopher Guest — "Waiting for Guffman" (1996), "Best in Show" (2000) and, to a lesser extent, "A Mighty Wind" (2003) — are some of the wittiest and most original movie comedies of the past decade, and among the best-loved.
And his highly anticipated new comedy, "For Your Consideration," should have been his masterpiece, if only because he had a larger budget to work with and his subject matter — the world of independent filmmaking — makes the endeavor somewhat autobiographical.
But though he has his usual repertory cast and tries for the same blend of absurdity and honesty, the film is not hugely funny or satirically biting. It works here and there, but it never takes off, and fans of "Guffman" and "Show" are likely to find it a considerable disappointment.
It's about an indie movie called "Home for Purim," a somewhat fatuous drama about a dysfunctional Jewish family living in the South during World War II, which we see at once is so impossibly stupid it could never be green-lighted in the real world.
But while the film is still in production, a reporter for an online entertainment site drops the word — based on a brief visit to the set — that one of the ensemble cast performers (Catherine O'Hara) may be an Oscar contender.
From here, the movie chronicles how the Oscar buzz affects the director (Guest), cast (Parker Posey, Jennifer Coolidge), writers (Michael McKean, Bob Balaban), an agent (Eugene Levy), a publicist (John Michael Higgins), various media ghouls (Fred Willard, Jane Lynch) and more.
There's definitely some funny stuff, but mostly in the smaller roles.
Perhaps the movie's biggest failing is in its attitude toward its characters. As ridiculous as the theatrical amateurs of "Guffman," the dog lovers of "Best in Show" and the aging folkies of "A Mighty Wind" may have been, in the end their movies loved and admired them. This movie doesn't communicate affection for the characters. It doesn't even seem to like them very much, and neither do we.