Mascots – Review (***)

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While it certainly isn’t the major return to form fans of writer-director Christopher Guest (This Is Spinal Tap!, Best in Show) may be hoping for, Mascots is nevertheless another entertaining entry into the malnourished mockumentary genre, thanks to a rock solid rate of riotous gags and terrific ensemble cast.

Mascots’ subjects are a number of the on-the-rise sports mascots looking to win the World Mascot Association Championship’s Gold Fluffy Award, essentially the star-maker of any mascot’s career. As with any competitive setting, of course, there’s blood, sweat and tears, yet nowhere but the world of “mascottery” (as one character calls it) will you see a guy in a plumber costume dance with an anthropomorphic lump of feces.

It’s probably fair to say that, for the most part, Mascots is a fairly one-note joke about how seriously these people take something as seemingly frivolous as being a mascot, but to Guest’s credit, he does a better-than-necessary job delving into the genuine passion, the motivations and the deep desire to win. Unlike so many similar movies, however, Guest refuses to indulge trite sentiment and mostly keeps the laughs on the right side of self-deprecating. Yes, it’s nice that these people have a drive towards a goal, but at the same time, it’s an inherently absurd life’s work.

Still, it’s the cast who really elevate fairly average TV sitcom-grade material – one could easily imagine this becoming a series in the vein of The Office – with Parker Posey, Zack Woods, Chris O’Dowd and Sarah Baker in particular doing strong, memorable work here as the movie’s most colourful set of characters.

While it doesn’t always work and would probably play more effectively in bite-sized, 22-minute episodic chunks, Mascots still provides an entertaining window into a little-seen world, with a wealth of charming comic faces to boot. If you enjoy cringe comedy and like laughing at people in amusingly oversized suits, this’ll surely be worth at least a Netflix viewing. Just don’t expect something that even begins to touch Guest’s better, earlier work.

***

Mascots premieres at the London Film Festival on October 9th

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