March 5, 2011 1 Comment
If a bar was set for competition-based documentaries last decade with the edge of your seat drama and opposition in “Spellbound” and “The King of Kong” (which I named as the best of their kind for the 2000s), two recent films have proven that suspenseful editing and formulaic narrative is not necessary for engaging non-fiction stories. Last week I reviewed “Kings of Pastry,” which isn’t really about a contest but rather an examination, and it’s comparatively slight and insignificant but it works. Now I’ve just seen the festival-touring “Worst in Show,” a doc about the World’s Ugliest Dog Contest that ignores intensity for basic human-interest magic.
Obviously it’s also a dog-interest story. The hour-long film takes us to Petaluma, California, for the 2010 competition of hideous canines (you’ve no doubt heard of Sam, the undefeated pooch who put the contest on the map). But it’s not Animal Planet fluff. And the real freak show is with the owners. I’m not necessarily saying some of them are ugly — though what they say about pets and their owners looking alike is validated here — so much as they’re just amazingly odd (but not mocked or exploited as such). Christopher Guest could not make up characters better than what you find here.