Mockumentaries have grown in popularity over the last few years with television shows such as “The Office”, “Parks & Recs”, and “Modern Family”. Some films have tried their hand, but it’s such a rare occurrence to see that mockumentary style in movies. However, they are favorite style of director and actor Christopher Guest who’s well known for his semi-improvisational mockumentary films. After his ten year hiatus from filmmaking and sixteen year hiatus from mockumentary films, he has returned this year with Netflix’s new release “Mascots”.
“Mascots” is the underdog tale of various strangers coming together in Anaheim, California to compete with their common passion: Mascoting. As these 25 finalists, struggle in managing their personal lives, they also race to devise the best mascoting routine possible for a chance at making it into the big leagues of mascoting and a chance for the creator of the competition to to turn it into a televised event.
The film focuses on various individuals such as a bickering couple, a british mascot legacy, a plumber mascot pining away after a high school crush, a violent Irish man known as the “Fist”, and two promiscuous southern belles who mascot as an armadillo. All of whom take their jobs as mascots as seriously as possible, devoting all their time and passion to it, no matter how ridiculous their performances get over time.
Despite the fact that the premise seems to promise a comedic film, “Mascots” falls flat and was received with mixed reviews. The downfall of it was its pacing. While it had it’s moments of humor, the film moved along incredibly slow and really seemed to lack solid plot. It jumped back and forth between the perspectives of some of the mascots first by introducing them, then showing their training and struggles, onward to their performances, and ending with a short epilogue.
As I mentioned before, it does have its moments. One of its best traits is that it employs the sort of humor that’s dry and casual at the same time. It’s one of those comedies where the characters do and say the most ridiculous things with sentences like,“For the two people that don’t know, Danny the Donkey, my mascot, alter ego, was the first one to have an anatomically correct costume. That lasted one day… but I have a lot of fans in Mexico. Tasmania. Finland.”, said by one of the judges, holding up a picture of a donkey with censored genitals. The best part is, they deliver these lines in a way where they’re dead serious the entire time. Unfortunately, that humor gets dull after awhile, and it really doesn’t change from there.
The plot itself was both predictable and slow paced, focusing on things that mattered so little and trying so hard to offer humor. Overall, it had very little essence to it. Nothing to really move the plot along, no real challenges, no huge plot devices. Much of the attention was on the characters themselves who experience little growth or change by the end, regardless of what the epilogue would have us believe.
For those who are fans of mockumentaries and the humor they have to offer, “Mascots” may be for you. For those who can’t handle slowly paced films and prefer more upfront wit, you may want to avoid it. It’s simply one of those films that had potential, but it resulted in being an acquired taste that most likely won’t reach popularity among the masses. I myself got bored halfway through, and only found myself entertained in moments here and there. Though it had mixed reviews, “Mascots” is not a complete flop, and I’d still recommend seeing it for yourself to decide where you stand. If for nothing else, then for the fact that the “six-fingered man” from Princess Bride directed it, and that in itself is hilarious to picture.