In the comedy genre, documentary style films, or ‘mockumentaries’, have long been a part of the landscape. From The Rutles in 1978 to Zelig in 1983, This is Spinal Tap in 1984 right up to all of the Christopher Guest movies (Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman) to 2014’s What We Do in the Shadows, the mockumentary style lends itself well to deadpan comedy. A new mockumentary has just hit shelves with an impressive array of talent, Cook Off!
Van Rookle Farms is holding their annual Cook Off competition for a whopping one-million-dollar prize and the contestants are willing to do anything it takes to get the top prize. Sharon Solfest (Cathryn Michon) is a Minnesota Lutheran whose day job is selling religion-themed “marital aids.” She and sister Pauline (Wendi McLendon-Covey) have both entered, though both expect Sharon to win. Along with a motley group of other contestants, Sharon and Pauline must deal with Sharon’s fiancé Lars (Gary Anthony Williams) who keeps putting off sex for some strange reason, and a former winner not eligible to compete that wants to win more than anyone. Now all of them find themselves in the ultimate food fight, but who will walk away with the money?
Cook Off! is not a Christopher Guest movie, that is evident right away. Actually made 10 years ago but sitting on a shelf until now, it lacks a certain charm and class that only Guest’s direction seems to provide. But there is still much to enjoy in Cook Off! Including a small but hilarious role by Melissa McCarthy, The Goldberg’s Wendi McLendon-Covey stealing every scene she is in, and a host of entertaining supporting roles including Louis Anderson, Phil LaMarr, Gavin MacLeod (yes, The Love Boat’s Gavin MacLeod), Markie Post, and the always brilliant Stephen Root. The movie definitely falters along the way but for some great one liners and situations and some familiar faces putting in some funny work, Cook Off! Is still worth a look.