Review: ‘Waiting for Guffman’

Mockumentary from Spinal Tap alumnus Christopher Guest has genuine laughs, but outside the fest circuit "Waiting for Guffman" seems a candidate for cable and homevid rather than theatrical release.

Mockumentary from Spinal Tap alumnus Christopher Guest has genuine laughs, but outside the fest circuit “Waiting for Guffman” seems a candidate for cable and homevid rather than theatrical release.

Pic is set in fictional town of Blaine, Mo. (it was actually shot in Austin and Lockhart, Texas), as the locals prepare a musical show celebrating the burg’s 150th anniversary. Its director is the effete New York transplant Corky St. Claire (writer-director Guest), who speaks of a wife who is never seen. The amateur show, “Red, White and Blaine,” is the focus of most of the film.

Corky casts the town’s travel agents (Fred Willard, Catherine O’Hara), two game but talentless locals who nevertheless are considered the “Lunts of Blaine, ” as well as a dentist (co-writer Eugene Levy) and a Dairy Queen girl (Parker Posey). Corky uses his connections to invite a Broadway producer named Guffman to see the show, with an eye toward taking it to Broadway.

While there are many individual moments that are quite funny, such as when the mayor (Larry Miller) explains to Corky why he can’t get $ 100,000 for the show when the town’s budget is only $ 15,000, the enterprise comes across like a bunch of talented friends making an elaborate home movie for their own amusement. Where “This Is Spinal Tap” took rock music and the media as its focus fat, juicy targets just asking to be lampooned Guest’s target here is small-town provincials.

The film assumes that small towns and their residents are, by definition, worthy of ridicule. Blaine was founded when a 19th-century guide told westward-heading settlers that he smelled saltwater and they therefore must have reached the Pacific Ocean, albeit at low tide. This might seem funny sitting around the pool in California, but is not likely to go over well in the heartland.

Still, the film is not without its rewards, and on the small screen it could click, especially on an irreverent showcase like Comedy Central.

Tech credits are efficient.

Waiting for Guffman

Production

A Sony Pictures Classics release. A Castle Rock Entertainment presentation. A Pale Morning Dun production. Produced by Karen Murphy. Directed by Christopher Guest. Screenplay, Guest, Eugene Levy.

Crew

Camera (color) , Roberto Schaefer; editor, Andy Blumenthal; production design, Joseph T. Garrity; art direction, John Frick; costume design, Julie Carnahan; music, Guest , Michael McKean, Harry Shearer; sound (Dolby), Jennifer Murphy; associate producer, Ginger Sledge; assistant director, Liz Ryan. Reviewed at the Sony Copley Place Theatre, Boston, Aug. 21, 1996. (In Boston Film Festival.) Running time: 84 MIN.

With

Corky St. Claire - Christopher Guest
Allan Pearl - Eugene Levy
Ron Albertson - Fred Willard
Sheila Albertson - Catherine O'Hara
Libby Mae Brown - Parker Posey
Old Man Wooley - Lewis Arquette
Johnny Savage - Matt Keeslar
With: Paul Dooley, Paul Benedict, Bob Balaban, Larry Miller, Brian Doyle-Murray.

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