I was surprised that For Your Consideration had such a low rating on Rotten Tomatoes until I started following the links. Some of the reviews, like the one from The Onion’s AV Club are critical of the movie but still give it a recommendation. I guess that’s a sign that a pass/fail rating isn’t suitable for a Serious Art Medium like The Cinema.
The AV Club gives it a B-, which is about accurate. The people who are going to see it anyway (fans of Best in Show and A Mighty Wind) are probably going to like it, even if it doesn’t attract any new fans. The performances are great as usual, but a lot of the cast is under-used. And the movie has enough laughs to warrant a recommendation, but as a whole the movie feels dated and off-center.
It feels like the usual Christopher Guest/Eugene Levy cast getting together to do an old SCTV sketch, without updating it from the original. One of the reasons A Mighty Wind seemed “off” was that it was stuck between character story and comedy/satire; they liked the characters too much to really make fun of them. The same is true here, but the result is that the movie feels as outdated and out-of-touch as its characters are intended to be. In 2006, who really doesn’t know what the “interweb” is?
And a lot of it is so subtle that you know it seemed brilliant when they were coming up with it, but it doesn’t have enough weight in the final movie. The biggest example is the movie-within-a-movie, a story about a Jewish family in the south in the 40’s which one review calls “Tennessee Williams meets Neil Simon,” a great description. So the characters switch between Yiddish and southern accents, “Oy gevalt! What have I done?” and comedy ensues. They take it a step further in an interview with the screenwriters, played by Michael McKean and Bob Balaban, where McKean admits he’d never heard of the Purim holiday before working on the screenplay. And then that goes a step further later, when a producer suggests they tone down the Jewishness of the movie, and McKean goes off on an indignant tirade about how they’re compromising the integrity of his work. It’s a clever concept, material for great satire, but it just doesn’t come across as funny.
So you end up watching the movie for the cast. As you’d expect, Catherine O’Hara is great, John Michael Higgins is great, and everybody else is good but underused. Fred Willard always stands out in these movies, and in this one he’s doing basically the same so-clueless-he’s-cruel schtick from Best in Show, this time with a faux-hawk and fake earring.
But I couldn’t be a bigger fan of Jane Lynch. She steals every movie she’s in, and she always does it with the littlest gesture or best-delievered line. In A Mighty Wind, it was her winking description of her past in adult movies. In The 40-Year Old Virgin, it was her unbelievably creepy seduction of Steve Carrell. In For Your Consideration, she plays a Mary Hart-style co-host to Fred Willard’s character, and she steals the scene just in the way she stands and walks. It’s just brilliant, and one of the few laugh-out-loud moments in the movie is just her standing there. I’ll go see any future Christopher Guest movies as long as she keeps appearing in them.