Star Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
I’m ashamed to admit that prior to Netflix’s new movie, Mascots, my only experience with Christopher Guest was his character Nigel Tufnel from This is Spinal Tap and his short series Family Tree on HBO. Both of which were incredibly funny, and I found Mascots to be no different. With some of the recent news that Netflix is continuing to shift their focus to more original content, it helps to add another success to the streaming giants already outstanding library of original tv shows and movies.
Mascots follows the similar mockumentary style employed by other Christopher Guest films. It follows multiple people as they prepare for the World Mascot Association’s Fluffy Awards. The movie shows how each of these people deal with the pressures of the upcoming competition as they each compete for something they are so passionate about. Along the way the film shares some of the history of mascots and how that has changed over time.
While the film had one cohesive plot, I found that instead of scenes, the film consisted of a series of “moments;” things that had to happen to advance the plot forward but sometimes had no real connection to the overall narrative. For example, there is a scene where one of the judges, Langston Aubrey, is concerned that one of the mascots, Benny the Banana Slug, failed his drug test and needs to be disqualified. During this exchange with another judge, we are introduced to one of the many running gags in the movie in which the mascots are confused with “furries.” The scene is hilarious but adds nothing to the core plot of the movie. There are a few of these scenes throughout the film and while this technique and these scenes might detract from the plot in any other film, here it only adds to the mockumentary style Guest is so well known for now. Everything else that drives the plot forward consists of cut-aways with the characters, and other moments that show the before, during, and after the Fluffy Awards.
The film does an impressive job of making each of the main characters relatable in some way. There’s nothing particularly special about any of them, and they each have their own dreams and aspirations, just like you and me. We see a couple deal with marital issues while trying to maintain their mascot team image. Another guy has difficulties dealing with his overbearing father. While one of the other characters just wants to be appreciated and noticed for what he does. They each have issues that are so completely human, it helps to anchor this film to our reality. Apart from the apparent ridiculousness of a mascot competition, its everyone around the main characters who seem off kilter. Christopher Guest reprises his role as Corky St. Clair from Waiting For Guffman, who is so flamboyant and over the top it doesn’t even seem real. Two of the judges are textbook narcissists, the two television executives don’t appear to have any real idea what is going on, and of course you have a rich business owner and his gold-digging trophy wife. All of these secondary characters are so exaggerated, it helps bring out the film’s comedic tone along with all the ridiculous scenarios.
In spite of the main characters being anchored in a more human reality instead of the exaggerated reality that Guest presents in his other films, Mascots lacks any sort of emotionality. I found that while I was able to relate to certain characters and scenarios, I didn’t really care who won the competition. Instead the film presented obvious winners and losers from the beginning. There was no anticipation as to who might win the competition. The climax came and went without any fanfare, and most importantly nothing changed. Some of the characters had different lives after the competition, but those changes could have still taken place with or without the Fluffy Awards.
Mascots isn’t necessarily the success Netflix was hoping for, but it was a step in the right direction for the streaming giant. The more and more Netflix looks toward original content the higher the risks of creating a massive flop. Some might argue Netflix has already had one or several, but that doesn’t change the fact that Netflix is moving forward with this plan whether we like it or not. Mascots is filled with a great cast, and a tells a funny story about love, loss, and acceptance. It’s a story in which Christopher Guest exchanges his overtly exaggerated style for one filled with real human emotion that only sinks in after the film has ended and your brain has time to process. Its no where near perfect or award winning, but it has everything you’d need for a light evening at home after a bad day at work.