Recruiting most of his staple players, Guest returns to the screen with his new film and presents a comedic look at the competitive world of mascots. With his trade-mark talking heads formula, combined with the behind the scenes access, Guest attempts to capture lightening in the same bottle that he's been recycling for the past 20 years. The film is essentially a poor man's WAITING FOR GUFFMAN and fails to recreate the spontaneity and sharp-wit of previous films.
Something seems wrong about this movie and it feels incredible lethargic. The snappy improvisation, that was once the backbone to his stories, has dwindled into a lazy series of ad-libs without any sense of cohesion or vibrance. The concept itself is too absurd to have any validity, and what made the previous films so wonderful was that their settings were grounded with plausible circumstances. The events were never the comedic focal point, but rather, the characters and their investment in said events is what provided the point of ridicule and frivolity. MASCOTS on the other hand seems to lampoon an event so ludicrous that it's hard to comprehend it being an actual thing.
The film was released directly through Netflix and when it was first announced it seemed like a perfect partnership. Theatrical releases aren't what they used to be and it's hard to imagine any of Guest's films surviving longer than a week or two at an arthouse cinema, and so an alliance with a major streaming service seemed like the perfect move... and so it's frustrating that the most wasn't made out of this opportunity.
The ensemble of players includes the return of Fred Willard, Bob Balaban, Jane Lynch, Michael Hitchcock, Parker Posey, John Michael Higgins, Ed Begley Jr, Jennifer Coolidge and Don Lake (amongst others), as well as a slate of newcomers including Chris O'Dowd, Susan Yeagley, Sarah Baker and Zach Woods. Clearly all of the above and consummate performers with a strong affinity for improv, and they each have some great moments throughout the film. Sadly the material they've been given is stale and laboured. Also sorely missing from the proceedings are Michael McKean, Catherine O'Hara, Eugine Levy and Larry Miller.
MASCOTS is a misfire from Guest & Co, and may just signal the beginning of the end for what is clearly an exhausted formula, not to mention an exhausted director. It has it's moments and a few loosely scattered laughs, but overall it acts more like that tragic uncle who visits at Christmas and thinks he's a comedian. You feign a smile, force a giggle and feel relief when he's left.