LFF 2016: Mascots Review

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In Disneyland Paris, about seven years ago, stood outside a vibrant cafe full of over-excited children and beleaguered parents, stood a distinctly short French man, pulling desperately on the bitter end of his cigarette, with a look of regret and sorrow slapped across his face. After stamping out the butt on the ground, under a pair of eye-catching yellow heels, he proceeded to pick up the large Minnie Mouse head position against a nearby bin, put it on, and proceed to dance off into the afternoon sun. It was at this point I realised there was a real story to tell of those behind the masks, and it’s one that has been depicted by master mockumentarian Christopher Guest, in his latest endeavour Mascots.

Guest, behind the likes of This is Spinal Tap and Best in Show, sets his latest feature in the world of the sporting mascot, where he get behind the facade and meets those who gallivant around stadiums across the world, entertaining the kids, maintaining a joyous demeanour and keeping the fans in high-spirits. We meet the likes of Cindi Babineaux (Parker Posey), Mike (Zach Woods) and Mindy Murray (Sarah Baker), The Fist (Chris O’Dowd) and Owen Golly Jnr (Tom Bennett) – each vying to be crowned champion at the forthcoming Mascot competition, the latter even flying all the way over to the States from Croydon, London. Showcasing their finest tricks and ability to work a crowd, they must impress the judges to take home this semi-prestigious award.

Bearing similarities to Best in Show, in how we studiously linger over a very specific, underground society of people in the build up to a convention that means nothing to your regular Joe, and the world to those who participate – regrettably any such comparisons mostly end there, for this is not nearly as intelligent nor resourceful in its comedic devices, garnering a mere fraction of the laughs that were evoked during the filmmaker’s 16-year-old production. Perhaps it’s because in that time the mockumentary has been popularised by the likes of The Office, and we’ve seen so many films and sitcoms thrive in this very capacity that it’s become rather tedious stomping ground that requires something truly unique to stand out from the crowd, and regrettably Mascots is not it.

One of the enjoyable elements derives from the surprising fact that the mascots are actually rather good at what they do, and their routines are shamelessly engaging. It’s part of the film’s charm and adds a vital injection of authenticity to a film otherwise thriving in the notion of sheer irreverence. Like David Brent, it’s that triumphant comedic device of not being very good at what they do, in his case composing and performing songs, and then again they’re far from being terrible – which is why it works. Had it gone too far in either direction the film simply wouldn’t have worked.

For Guest’s movies come spiked with a certain sense of realism, outlandish humour it may be, offering a heightened take on the real world, but always just on the right side of believability. Though Mascots is too overt, and characters like The Fist, though undoubtedly funny, are simply not real enough to survive in this particular setting and cinematic format, and it’s here where this underwhelming comedy falls short.