Let’s say you’ve had a rough week *ahem* and you want to take your mind off the world’s troubles. You could do worse than to watch Christopher Guest’s Netflix comedy Mascots (2016), the latest in his trademark line of semi-improvisational ensemble pieces. Following the model of Best in Show, Mascots focuses on a peculiar niche passion—in this case, sports “mascottery”—and zooms in on a gathering of its goofier practitioners as they gear up for an annual competition.
Folks who have been following Guest’s work stretching all the way back to This is Spinal Tap and Waiting for Guffman will recognize the traditional mockumentary format he helped pioneer, as well as the usual band of repertory suspects from previous projects, back again to take a ridiculous subject way too seriously. Parker Posey, Ed Begley Jr., Fred Willard, Jane Lynch, Chris O’Dowd, and more Guest veterans turn up—including Guest himself, reprising his Guffman role as Corky St. Clair. But it’s the newcomers who steal the show, this time: Zach Woods, Susan Yeagley, and Tom Bennett are among this one’s funnier, more memorable oddballs.
Occasionally, there’s a mildly mean-spirited, punching-down quality to Guest’s work, poking fun at the simple pleasures of quirky, unsophisticated folk. Mascots has a little of that, marred by a handful of cringeworthy bits, but overall its subject is so ludicrous it’s easy to turn off the critical filters and enjoy the absurdity, and the often-inspired comic buffoonery of the competition sequence that winds down the film. Mascots isn’t quite up to Guest’s classic stuff, but it’s still pretty good, and it turned my brain off for an hour so, which is a high bar to clear these days.