D: Christopher Guest / 94m
Cast: Carrie Aizley, Sarah Baker, Bob Balaban, Ed Begley Jr, Tom Bennett, Jennifer Coolidge, Kerry Godliman, Matt Griesser, Christopher Guest, John Michael Higgins, Michael Hitchcock, Don Lake, Jane Lynch, Christopher Moynihan, Chris O’Dowd, Jim Piddock, Parker Posey, Harry Shearer, Fred Willard, Zach Woods, Susan Yeagley
Sports mascots from around the globe gather to take part in the 8th World Mascot Association Championships, though strangely, we only get to meet competitors from the US, Canada, and the UK. There’s Mike and Mindy (Woods, Baker), teachers at Rhea Perlman Middle School; Cindi Babineaux (Posey), a former dance student; Owen Golly (pronounced “jolly”) Jr (Bennett), a third generation mascot; Tommy ‘Zook’ Zucarello (O’Dowd), a hockey mascot with a penchant for drugs and sexual misconduct; and Phil Mayhew (Moynihan), a real estate appraisor.
We meet them in the days leading up to the Championship, watch them deal with various problems related to being a mascot, and the pressures of being in such a low-profile tournament. Alongside them we get to meet the judges (Lynch, Lake, Begley Jr), the Championship organiser (Hitchcock), and a handful of interested parties, including Owen’s father (Piddock), Cindi’s sister, Laci (Yeagley), and Phil’s coach (Willard). As the big day approaches, each of the contestants faces a crisis that could mean the difference between winning and losing.
If that brief synopsis of Mascots seems a little tired, and a little uninspired, then that’s because it’s an adequate representation of the movie itself. This is the fifth movie of its type from Guest, and it has the look and feel of an idea that has been put aside in the past because it just doesn’t match up to the quality of its predecessors. There’s the same set up as before, with brief character introductions giving way to even briefer journeys to the main venue, followed by a series of obstacles that the contestants need to overcome before the big day. Along the way there are the usual monologues or discussions to camera that reveal character flaws or embarrassing histories, wedded to documentary style footage that shows the same characters behaving badly or with few social skills.
As a result, the situations and the jokes feel forced and the humour dries up very quickly in any given scene. And many of those same scenes are superfluous and dull, failing to advance the basic storyline, and feeling more extraneous than relevant. That said, the cast do the best they can, but some are more fortunate than others, with Bennett and Moynihan coming off best, while the likes of Willard, Lynch and Hitchcock play the same old characters they always play. Guest, though, actually does play a character he’s played before: Corky St Clair from Waiting for Guffman (1996). It all adds up to a fitfully amusing movie that never manages to gather any momentum, and remains unrewarding except for a couple of the mascot performances.
Rating: 5/10 – a bit of a struggle to get through, Mascots is another Netflix movie that promises more than it can deliver; time for Guest et al to hang up the mockumentary approach and find a new way to lampoon the people whose niche pursuits have provided us with so much hilarity in the past.