It seems like forever since Christopher Guest last graced us with one of his comedic masterpieces, and after attending a screening of the director’s latest film, it looks like we may be in for one helluva wait. There’s virtually nothing funny about “For Your Consideration” – which pokes fun at Hollywood and the Academy Awards – and is in fact so mellow that it could have easily passed for a drama. The characters are sad, sad human beings (not the outlandish caricatures that made Guest’s earlier films so compelling), the script feels hurried and unfinished, and the cast appear to have been given carte blanche over what they think is funny. Regrettably, most of it is not.
Breaking away from the mockumentary mold for the very first time, Guest and long-time writing partner Eugene Levy rely heavily on the classic film-within-a-film model as the setting of their story, which takes place on the set of a small period pieced called “Home for Purim.” The movie is awful, from the script’s blending of Southern charm and Jewish slang, to the over-the-top performances by its actors, but when an internet posting begins a rumor that star Marilyn Hack (Catherine O’Hara) should garner an Oscar nomination come awards time, the film’s publicist (John Michael Higgins) goes into overdrive, generating even more buzz about possible nominations for its other two stars, Victor Allen Miller (Harry Shearer) and Callie Webb (Parker Posey).
From here, the movie simply falls apart, with most of the actors taking on roles that are much better suited for other members of the ensemble cast. Usually the life of the party as a quirky bitch, Posey has absolutely nothing to offer as the laid-back actress, while veterans like O’Hara and Levy seem to have been cast in Guest’s latest film for the simple fact that, well, they’ve always been in his films. Other vets like Michael McKean and Bob Balaban are relegated to throwaway roles as the screenwriters, and newcomers like Rachael Harris hardly get a minute of screen time to shine. In fact, the only performances even worth noting are Fred Willard (donning a faux-hawk) and Jane Lynch (nailing every pose and stare), who are pitch-perfect as a pair of hosts on an entertainment news show, and Ricky Gervais in a small cameo as a studio exec.
Jennifer Coolidge also wins some laughs as the film’s ditzy producer, but she quickly outstays her welcome well before the 30-minute mark. It’s not surprising, either, since most of the film’s proposed comedy is based on a handful of running jokes that aren’t very funny the first time around, including one where nobody knows what the internet is. This is the kind of humor that I’ve come to expect from deplorable, direct-to-DVD teenage comedies – not from the man who brought us instant classics like “This Is Spinal Tap” and “Best in Show” – and while longtime fans may be willing to forgive Mr. Guest for such a serious misstep, I most certainly am not.
Another disappointing DVD release by Warner Brothers, with an incredibly dull audio commentary by writers Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy, and 30-odd minutes of deleted/extended scenes as the only extras to appear on the single-disc release. Where's the gag reel? Sigh.