Waiting for Guffman (1996) Blu-ray Review: The Waiting is the Artist Part

The brilliant mockumentary from Christopher Guest and Co. gets a beautiful new High-Definition transfer from the Warner Archive Collection.
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Before he gave us his unique looks at dog shows and folk groups, This Is Spinal Tap co-creator and star Christopher Guest formed his first "solo" mockumentary turned his eyes towards the stage for this hilarious mockumentary revolving around one very memorable community theater presentation by way of Samuel Beckett's immortal play Waiting for Godot. Set in the fictional small town of Blaine, Missouri, 1996's Waiting for Guffman finds Guest as an ambiguously gay theater director from New York named Corky St. Clair. Clad in some of the worst fashion violations ever conceived, Corky takes on the helming of "Red, White, and Blaine" ‒ a less-than-grandiose 150th anniversary tribute to the discovery and founding of a tiny Midwest town (which a moronic settler mistook for the Pacific Coast) best known for producing stools and an alleged UFO sighting.

Naturally, since it's a Christopher Guest mockumentary, the laughable budget Corky receives to put on this historic show is the sort of thing which can only be upstaged (ha-ha) by the local yokels seemingly devoid of talent or merit he casts. But first, Corky has to sell the local city council responsible for producing the play that he's the right man for the job. And so, by using his (vague) connections from "Off-Off-Off-Off-Broadway," the man adorned in the awful bowl-cut toupee sends a telegram to prominent Broadway producer Mort Guffman. Inferring the titular bigwig may like the presentation enough to revive it on a proper stage, this sets about a sense of stage-fever anxiety in his already-awkward-enough cast. Guest's usual fine gathering of skilled improvisational comics includes SCTV's Eugene Levy (who also co-wrote the story) and Catherine O'Hara, Fred Willard, Parker Posey, and Lewis Arquette.

But Blaine has many more intriguing characters for us to meet, represented on-screen by the comedic talents of Bob Balaban, Matt Keeslar, Michael Hitchcock, Deborah Theaker, Larry Miller, Don Lake, Linda Kash, Brian Doyle-Murray, Paul Benedict, Paul Dooley, and an early (if, tragically, brief) screen appearance by David Cross as a UFO expert. Another thing a Christopher Guest mockumentary can't do without, of course, is songs. And Waiting for Guffman's infrequently numerous musical highlights are right on target thanks to a selection of now-near-ancient standards and several original tracks co-written by Guest's fellow Spinal Tap (as well as Best in Show and A Mighty Wind) performers, Michael McKean (Young Doctors in Love) and Harry Shearer (aka Derek Smalls). Brilliantly incorporated into the ridiculous on-screen antics of Guffman's play, the novelty songs

More than 20 years after its limited theatrical release and subsequent "cult sleeper" status on the home video market, Waiting for Guffman returns to delight the right kinds of audiences on Blu-ray from the Warner Archive Collection. Considering the modestly-budgeted film was shot in the mid '90s on Super16, the WAC's transfer is really something to behold. Transferred from a 35MM interpositive blowup and scanned in 2K, Waiting for Guffman won't leave you wanting (or, if you would prefer, Waiting) for a better-looking print, as the clarity, depth, and color of this MPEG-4 AVC 1080p presentation is the sort of perfection Corky St. Clair only dreams about achieving. The film's original stereo soundtrack has been remastered in DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo for this release, and matches the film's (score-less) documentary style flawlessly.

Special features for this Warner Archive release includes all of the extras from the 2001 New Line Home Video DVD. The first of these selections is an audio commentary with Blaine founding fathers Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy, which is quite the hoot to enjoy in itself. Next up is a rather lengthy line-up of additional scenes, also with optional commentary by the aforementioned duo of Guest and Levy. (Guest reportedly spent a year-and-a-half editing Waiting for Guffman down to what it became, going through nearly 60 hours of material in the process. Let that sink in for a moment.) Lastly, the WAC gives us the original theatrical trailer, newly remastered in High-Definition especially for this release. Sadly, a trailer for Corky St. Clair's latest appearance (Mascots) isn't included, but there is nevertheless more than enough good stuff here to stuff your Remains of the Day lunchbox with.

Highly Recommended.

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