By Don Simpson | December 8, 2011
Directors: Don Lewis, John Beck
Don Lewis and John Beck’s documentary follows four dogs on their journey to Petaluma, California for the 22nd annual World’s Ugliest Dog competition. Rascal, an African sand dog, is the veteran of the circuit and probably the favorite due to his pedigree (he is a direct descendant of Chi Chi, the Guinness World Records holder for winning eight world titles). Rascal’s owner is Dane. But then there is Pabst, the reigning champ. Pabst’s owner is Miles. Icky, the rookie, is a Chinese crested. Icky’s owner is Jon. Last, but certainly not least… Winston, a Hurricane Katrina rescue, is the underdog. Winston’s owner is Ashley. Oh, and what would an ugly dog documentary be without Sam — the dog who undeniably started this whole damn mess?
Worst in Show contemplates our society’s obsession with competition, specifically winning. It is impossible to deny the role that publicity has played in catapulting this ugly dog phenomenon into mainstream culture, but adeptness in publicity also feeds into the success of the individual dogs. Guest appearances on television shows and having photos taken with celebrities work in direct correlation to the fame (and profitability) of the canines.
It seems as though the key to success in documentary filmmaking often hinges upon the quirkiness and eccentricities of the film’s subjects; and, well, Worst in Show features quirkiness and eccentricities in spades. You might even say that the owners of the “ugly” dogs are just as quirky and strange as the dogs themselves. If you think the [fictional] characters in Christopher Guest’s Best in Show are absurd, they appear relatively straight-laced when compared to the [real] subjects of Worst in Show.
Worst in Show is now available on DVD from Breaking Glass Pictures. The DVD includes a directors’ commentary by Don Lewis and John Beck as well as outtakes from the film and a short film in which a wheelchair is donated to Winston by a local vet.