The success of any mockumentary lives and dies by the dedication of the actors who are working to pull off the cinematic slight-of-hand and get audiences believing that maybe, just maybe, in some alternate, upside-down wacked out world, these characters could exist. The humour, of course, comes from the purposely topsy-turvey, hyperbolic perspectives and a feeling that what we're edging closer to truths buried beneath the comedy.
Actor-comedian Sacha Baron Cohen has proven himself to be particularly skilled at turning the documentary style on its head, first on TV's "Da Ali G Show" and then with big-screen hits like Borat and Bruno where he truly mocks with abandon. Not only does he physically transform but he hits the press circuit in full regalia as the character from the movie he's promoting, happy to blur the line between fact and fiction and continue the ruse.
With The Dictator set to rule this weekend, we took the time to reflect on our 5 Favourite Mockumentaries.
Get the list below and get ready for The Dictator with an EXCLUSIVE message from the man himself:
OUR 5 FAVOURITE MOCKUMENTARIES
#5 CB4 (1993)
Chris Rock co-wrote this one when he was just 26 and wanted to make something close to a rap Spinal Tap, sending up the gangsta-rap culture that was hugely popular at the time, with a special focus on controversial group NWA. With a willingness to parody the egos, misogyny, myth-making and racial tension that were wrapped up in the movement, the funny, silly, spot-on mock-doc hits all the right notes and co-stars fellow SNLers (late, great) Phil Hartman and Chris Elliott.
|#4 TIE TROPIC THUNDER (2008) & ZELIG (1983)
These two fairly dissimilar films are paired because not only do they both deserve to be on the list, they both involve actors physically transforming for satirical purposes: in Tropic, Robert Downey Jr. is the worst kind of self-serious method actor undergoing surgery to tint his skin so he can better play a black man and in Zelig Woody Allen is a man afflicted with "chameleon disorder" wherein he turns into whomever he is near and that most certainly includes other races, gaining him fame but robbing him of his individuality. Though Zelig is much more cerebral than large-scale laffer Tropic, both have much to say about walking a mile in another man's shoes.
|#3 DROP DEAD GORGEOUS (1999)
You've heard of ladies who would kill to have perfect skin or silky hair but these Minnesota pageant moms (Kirstie Alley and Ellen Barkin) have taken that hyperbole literally when another teen stands in the way of their daughters winning the crown. A hilarious look at a dead-end small town where pageant wins mean a way out, Drop Dead Gorgeous has a cast of truly funny ladies including Allison Janey, Kirsten Dunst, Denise Richards, Brittany Murphy, Amy Adams and Nora Dunn and remains a shining example of what a good mockumentary looks like.
|#2 BEST IN SHOW (2000)
Recruiting his usual cast of character actors, Christopher Guest, the first name in rock-solid mockumentaries, mines, of all things, the rife-with-crazy world of dog shows and profiles a handful of owners who are loopier than the next and unhealthily obsessed with winning best in show. We have married couples, yuppies, loners and liars and let's not forget clueless commentator Buck Laughlin (the always great Fred Willard) who had some of the most bafflingly funny lines. To wit: "And to think that in some countries these dogs are eaten."
|#1THIS IS SPINAL TAP (1984)
The preeminent mockumentary remains Rob Reiner's masterful send-up of the indulgent, self-serving, outrageous world of rock and roll that skillfully straddled the line between fact and farce. Unwarned viewers could easily be led to believe that Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest), David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean) and Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer) were actually three clueless British rock stars trying to stage a comeback tour with tepid and hilarious results. Teeming with forever-quotable lines and spot-on observations about the rewards and ravages of fame, Spinal Tap is the movie that demands to be watched turned up to 11.
Honourable mentions: It's All Gone Pete Tong, Fubar, Hard Core Logo, Forgotten Silver
What are some of YOUR favourite mockumentaries? Share below!