Christopher Guest specializes in niche specialties. Every new mockumentary film the writer/director releases dives into a new and peculiar subset of enthusiasts, from Waiting for Guffman’s small-town theater troupe, to A Mighty Wind’s folk-music groupies, to Best in Show’s determined dog show competitors.
With Mascots — his new original film for Netflix, released October 13 — Guest has once again tapped into a subculture of proud oddballs, as played by an all-star cast. This time, though, the subject of Guest’s fond mockery is the world of semi-professional mascots, all coming together to compete at “The Fluffys” for the honor of being recognized as the very best in the field of pumping people up from inside felt masks.
Guest enlists most of his usual mainstays, like Fred Willard, Parker Posey, Jane Lynch, and Jennifer Coolidge. But he’s also invited some welcome new faces into the mix, including Zach Woods (Silicon Valley), Sarah Baker (Go On), and Susan Yeagley (Parks and Recreation).
As a whole, though, Mascots only occasionally rises above “pretty okay.” Guest’s actors — who improvise their way through loosely sketched scenes, per Guest’s usual comedic process — commit to the material, but the improv isn’t as consistently sharp in Mascots as it was in A Mighty Wind or Best in Show, and the movie ends up lagging because of it.
(Not for nothing: Guest favorites Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy aren’t in Mascots, likely thanks to their shooting schedule for the hilarious Schitt’s Creek. They are sorely missed.)
Like just about every Guest joint, Mascots depends on its bizarre characters to thrive. And just like every Guest joint, not all these characters are created equal.
So in the grand tradition of internet criticism, let’s break this movie down, with this definitive ranking of Mascots’ mascots.
7) The Fist (Chris O’Dowd)
The alpha male “bad boy of mascotry,” The Fist takes all his cues from hockey (the sport for which he mascots). This means his act runs on furious roller-skating, emphatic air guitar, and humping passersby. Outside his costume, The Fist’s days are mostly spent hotboxing his trailer and sleeping with women with oblivious boyfriends.
O’Dowd does his best to make The Fist a sleaze worth watching, but at the end of the day, this guy sucks.
6) The Worm (Brad Williams)
The Worm, unfortunately, doesn’t get a whole lot to do throughout Mascots. We only get to see his act briefly — performed with a mascot version of a rabbi, making them “Heshe and the Worm” — because so much of his screen time is spent politely tolerating Willard’s persistent questions about how he manages to function as a little person.
So while The Worm ends up placing third at the Fluffys, he barely registers as part of Mascots.
5) This anonymous pencil and sidekick sharpener, God bless ’em
These two have no lines to speak of, but they opened the Fluffys with a Bollywood routine for no apparent reason — exactly the brand of random lunacy Christopher Guest’s used to build a career. A+, would (and immediately did) watch again.
4) Tammy the Turtle and Ollie the Octopus (Sarah Baker and Zach Woods)
To be clear: Both Mindy Murray (Baker) and her husband Mike (Woods) make terrible mascots. They have no real tricks to speak of, beyond throwing underhand baseball pitches and getting furious with each other for the slightest of mistakes — or more frequently, for just having a dumb face.
But Baker and (especially) Woods are sharp improvisers who keep finding new and more awful ways to express their characters’ disdain for each other. Baker rips into Mindy’s perpetually boiling-over anger with vicious glee, while Woods sells Mike’s waffling between wanting to placate Mindy and desperately trying to make a run for it with wide, watering eyes.
Needless to say, the Murrays don’t win a Fluffy. In fact, their act goes down in humiliating fashion, with Ollie wrapping one of his many tentacles around Tammy’s leg and dragging her offstage. But hey, at least their simultaneous meltdowns are entertaining!
3) Jack the Plumber (Matt Griesser)
Jack the Plumber makes for one of the better underdog stories in a movie where literally every character is an underdog.
We first see this seemingly hapless mascot — Christian name: Andy Dibble — stumbling all over himself to impress the college football players he cheers for, who have no idea who he is or why they should care about the guy who looks like a Bizarro World Mario brother.
But when he gets to the Fluffys — a place where everyone surrounding him is just as enthusiastic about the art of getting people hyped — Jack comes into his own, delivering a performance that can only be called “memorable.” (Hint: Jack the Plumber comes onstage with a toilet, and yes, he does snake that drain to find something horrifying within.)
2) Sid the Hedgehog (Tom Bennett)
To be honest, I didn’t care much at all about Sid (né “Owen Golly”) or the storied Golly family legacy that bore this earnest hedgehog character — until he did his act.
Mascots is a mockumentary, and as such, pretty much all the routines we see at the Fluffys are completely ridiculous for the sake of being ridiculous. But Sid comes out of nowhere to put on a methodically paced slapstick show featuring tea parties and high-stakes ladder-climbing that rightly gets the crowd on its feet. It’s Charlie Chaplin meets Monty Python’s silly walks divided by the Teletubbies. It’s strange, and totally charming.
1) Alvin the Armadillo (Parker Posey / Susan Yeagley)
But the number one spot has to go to Alvin the Armadillo — or, as Posey’s earnest Cindi Babineaux says, “Armadill-ah, depending on where you’re from.”
Hailing from the Amelia Earhart College for Women, Cindi’s creation is … well, okay, it’s kind of horrifying, really. Alvin’s costume is a purple basketball jersey and shorts, silver body paint, and an armadillo head created from gnarled metal and wires that features glowing red eyes so disturbing that it’d send a shiver down Immortan Joe’s spine.
But Posey’s such an incredibly fun performer to watch, and she gets a worthy scene partner in Yeagley who, as Cindi’s bubblegum-snapping half-sister Laci, is Mascots’ best surprise. Laci has to step into Alvin’s armor when Cindi gets sick the morning of the show, and even if you think you know what might be coming, trust me: You do not.
No matter what scene they’re in, Posey and Yeagley always manage to be the best and brightest weirdos in the room. In the world of Christopher Guest’s Mascots, that’s a win.
Mascots is currently available to stream on Netflix.