Film Scouts Reviews

"Waiting for Guffman"

by Leslie Rigoulot

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Have you ever been in a 'little theater' production? Ever done high school drama? Well, even if you haven't you will still love "Waiting for Guffman". It helps if you have been one of the many subjected to insipid directors, hammy over-actors or hideous choreography, but it doesn't matter if you were cast, crew or audience; the spark of recognition will ignite gales of laughter when Corky puts on a lavish musical review commemorating the 150 years of Blaine, Missouri.

Corky is Christopher Guest, the genius who brought us his quirky humor in "National Lampoon Radio Hour", "This is Spinal Tap", and "Cold Turkey". As the director, writer and composer of "Waiting for Guffman", Guest mirrors Corky St. Clair, who also directs, writes, composes and choreographs Blaine's sesquicentennial event. Guest is one of those workhorse actors/writers who show up in "A Few Good Men" in order to pay the bills so they can direct satirical films like "The Big Picture" starring Kevin Bacon. And he pulled together a cast and crew of similar minds/careers. Eugene Levy co-wrote the outline for "Waiting" in which he and Guest encouraged the actors to improvise. Then Levy took the role of Dr. Pearl, a small-town dentist who loves showbiz. You will immediately recognize Catherine O'Hara as McCauley Culkin's mom from "Home Alone" I and II, but as the wife of travel agent Fred Willard she really gets to cut loose in an audition featuring 'Midnight at the Oasis'. I asked Fred Willard about the audition scene and he told me that originally they "were just going to do a Taster's Choice commercial because that is the sort of thing my character would have thougtht was really classy, but Guest wanted us to do the song because he went to school with the guy who wrote it." So the two are unevenly woven together!

As the high school music teacher who is miffed that the town fathers chose Corky to do "Red, White and Blaine", Bob Balaban gives a fine understated performance of jealousy. The poster girl for indie movies, Parker Posey, is Dairy Queen counter girl Libby Mae Brown. "It was Parker's idea for her to sing the Doris Day song 'Teacher's Pet' for the audition," Willard admitted. As a travel agent who has never left Blaine, Willard steals every scene he is in. You will surely recognize him from his TV appearances: as his own evil twin on both "SCTV" and "Lois and Clark", married to Martin Mull on "Roseanne", a priest on "Golden Girls" (as Frank Bonner's brother), Orville Wright (as Frank Bonner's brother) in "A.J.'s Time Travel" and as Frank Bonner's brother on "WKRP in Cincinnati".

"Waiting for Guffman" is an ode to the hopes and dreams of every performer and a send-up of every bad performance around. "We are not making fun of community theater, make sure you tell them that," Willard repeated twice, "we are making fun of bad performances which can just as easily be in professional theater too. There are plenty of good performances in amateur theater. I'd love to see my first scene from "Golden Boy" that I did on a stage in a couple's apartment! Probably funnier than what I did in the movie!" Well, what made it on the screen is plenty to keep us laughing. Rated R, Castle Rock

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