After Spinal Tap, dog shows and folk music, Christopher Guest and his merry band of spoofers train their sights on the blinding inanities of their own industry, as a wretched period movie called Home For Purim picks up some web-spawned Oscar buzz, and everyone – jobbing cast, conniving suits, shallow media – gets swept up in the hype.
“We tried to lower the bar as much as we could in terms of the intelligence of these characters,” says Eugene Levy on his low-key commentary with Guest. In that, at least, the co-scripters succeed, skewering a procession of desperate dimwits and showbiz dregs, saving their prickliest barbs for the grotesque talk-show bandwagon Purim’s cast climb onto, as epitomised by Fred Willard’s vacantly mean-spirited entertainment anchor (and there’s more of Willard’s fearless stupidity in the deleted/alternate scenes).
But elsewhere, Levy and Guest’s satirical punches are pulled. The improvised spontaneity that boosted Best In Show and A Mighty Wind feels drained and stale here, while the film’s fame-hungry D-listers (including the excellent Catherine O’Hara) are forced to swallow some bitter, pathos-flavoured pills. It’s as if Guest has been busy lapping up wisdom from new pal Ricky Gervais – who he met while scribbling For Your Consideration and cast as a pushy studio head. If Guest was hoping to replicate the comedy/cringe line of pain that, in his opinion, made The Office “the best thing out there in 20 years,” then he misses the mark and Gervais’ superior Extras remains untroubled.