You can't talk about mockumentaries without talking about Christopher Guest. The writer/director/actor brought the genre to popularity with his role as idiot guitarist Nigel Tufnel in 1985's This Is Spinal Tap, and since has gone on to direct his own slew of acclaimed mock-docs including theater spoof Waiting For Guffman and dog-centric Best In Show among more. And if one thing's certain, it's that Guest isn't done with the genre just yet. Thankfully, we finally have our first look at Mascots, the filmmaker's latest mockumentary.
Mascots is set in the world of sports mascots, centered on a national competition to crown the country's greatest costumed sports performer. Armed with ridiculous suits and gimmicks, 20 finalists enter the competition, but only one can win the coveted Golden Fluffy Award.
As you can see in the trailer, Mascots is filled with funny characters, both in and out of their mascot suits. The mockumentary boasts a great comedy cast that reunites Guest with plenty of past collaborators alongside several newcomers, marking one of Netflix's strongest comedic ensembles and setting this one up for some serious success.
Casting Is Critical In Mockumentaries
Guest's mockumentaries have gained plenty of critical praise and fan appreciation, and while we're happy to heap praise on the creator (he deserves it), those movies wouldn't be nearly as successful were it not for their strong casts. That's because of how heavily he relies on improv to create his movies.
While Guest creates characters and scenarios for his actors, the dialogue is almost entirely improvised. It's a style the creator first employed with buddies Michael McKean and Harry Shearer while working on This Is Spinal Tap, which resulted in the film's signature blend of realism and absurdity.
Director Rob Reiner and his team assembled a movie that had all the trappings of a documentary, but with a totally ridiculous plot thanks to the improv. Of course, Guest has gone on to develop that style in the likes of Waiting for Guffman, Best In Show and For Your Consideration, with Mascots serving as the latest in his string of mockumentaries.
A Reliable Troupe Of Returning Stars
Guest relies so heavily on his casts that the director's basically created a comedy troupe of performers who recur throughout his movies. Actors like Fred Willard, Bob Balaban, Parker Posey, Jane Lynch and more have all appeared together in multiple Guest mockumentaries, giving the director a strong foundation for his quirky tales.
In a 2009 interview with the A.V. Club, Guest dove into why he keeps using the same actors, noting:
"In the kind of films that I do, there is an extremely limited number of people that can improvise. The reason the ensemble continues in the movies is because those are the people that can do that kind of work. It’s not just an accident those people are in the film."
The director's thought process basically boils down to the old saying, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," and it looks like we'll see more of the same in Mascots. Many of Guest's regulars, including Lynch, Balaban, Willard, Jennifer Coolidge and Ed Begley Jr. are set for non-mascot roles in the movie, meaning we should get plenty of laughs from the "normal" folks in the film.
Meanwhile, Posey's been cast as one of the lead mascots, Alvin the Armadillo, with recent Guest collaborator Chris O'Dowd set to play the Fist — "the bad boy of sports mascotery." O'Dowd might represent a fresh batch of talent joining Guest's standard troupe, with Mascots marking his second collab with the director following the 2013 HBO comedy Family Tree.
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Bolstering The Cast With Newcomers
Thankfully, it's not all familiar faces in Mascots. The trailer shines a spotlight on Zach Woods as Ollie the Octopus and Sarah Baker as Tammy the Turtle, two newcomers to Guest's crew. And as would be expected, they have the chops to keep up with the usual suspects.
Fans will probably recognize Woods from his turn as Gabe on The Office and the dorky Jared on Silicon Valley, or from his recent appearance as the tour guide in the opening sequence of Paul Feig's Ghostbusters. Woods is also a fixture in the Upright Citizens Brigade comedy community, amassing tons of improv experience over his career.
Baker might be less familiar for most audiences, though she's no less talented. She's probably be best remembered for her appearance during Louie Season 4, providing a scene-stealing performance as a woman who challenge's Louie's thoughts on dating. While that was a pretty dramatic turn, she's shown off comedy chops with roles in movies like 2014's Tammy and 2012's The Campaign and a slew of TV shows including Go On, Bob's Burgers and Grace and Frankie.
Judging by this trailer, the world of Mascots is filled with over-the-top, outlandish characters, but thankfully Christopher Guest has assembled a killer lineup of old favorites and rising stars to bring those creations to life. With a wealth of proven comedy experience, there's little doubt that this crew will provide some major laughs in the film. And they just might make up the most talented comedy cast we've seen in a Netflix original movie.
Mascots arrives on Netflix on October 13. Are you excited for Christopher Guest's latest comedy? Let us know in the comments below.