Mascots (2016)

A zany improv mockumentary in ‘Mascots’ (2016)



Watching Christopher Guest’s Mascots, I hadn’t heard such laughter in a theater since It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. 1,400 people showed up for the special San Francisco Film Society screening at the Castro Theater on Oct-4-2016.

My 30 year old son gamely attended with me, and he laughed throughout too. Even though he didn’t know who Christopher Guest was and had never seen This is Spinal Tap or Best in Show. Maybe he’ll watch those movies now. Certainly Mascots ranks as highly as or even surpasses those two similar mockumentaries.

Not strictly a soccer movie

Strictly speaking, Mascots is not a soccer movie. Like Best in Show, the story follows performers and their fractious families as the players compete in the World Mascot Championship in glorious Anaheim. The key competitors are: The Fist (hockey), Sid the Hedgehog (British football), struggling married couple (baseball), Jack the Plumber (high school football), and modern dancer Alvin the Armadillo (Parker Posey as a 7-year college cheerleader). Guest gathered his normal ensemble of players in largely supporting roles, but the mascots are played by new young comic actors who are all brilliant.

Christopher Guest at SF Film Society Screening of Mascots Oct-2016
Christopher Guest on-stage at the SF Film society Festival Oct-2016

We were a great audience!

While the audience was keen to welcome and thank Guest for his personal appearance, I don’t think that was the only reason Guest said we were his best audience for a Mascots screening. The film is just really clever and entertaining. The mascot performances made me want to immediately google “mascot championship” and see if I could attend the next competition. But my cell phone was turned off during the movie.

Mascots is having a very small theatrical release and will then be on Netflix in mid-October. Netflix financed the movie, which Guest acknowledged was a prime reason for going to streaming so early. He professed that few companies will finance a movie that doesn’t have a script (see Notes below). But Netflix was very supportive, telling him to do what he wanted, and giving him say over the final cut.

Notes from Christopher Guest’s Q&A

  1. Guest starts with a story outline, detailed character backstory, and about 100 scenes
    • 98% of the dialogue is improvised
    • No rehearsal, just an hour of discussion before shooting the scene
    • Scenes are never changed, never altered as a result of the improvisation
    • 2 takes per scene on average
  2. Editing process took about 11 months
    • 155 hours of footage
  3. Costume designer Christine Wada designed the mascot & human costumes
    • Stunt people were used inside the costumes, specific people for particular stunts
    • Parker Posey is “a terrific dancer” and choreographed much of the Armadillo moves

8 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 8