“Mascots,” Netflix’s most recent original movie, offers little worth remembering. This mockumentary follows the lives of professional sports mascots as they prepare and then compete at the World Mascot Association Championships. Such an ultra-niche industry as “sports mascotery” attracts some truly deranged and confused individuals.
Director Christopher Guest has built the bulk of his career off of similar documentary-comedies. His film “Best in Show” satirizes dog show competitors, and “Waiting for Guffman” makes fun of community theater. “Mascots” goes along the same vein but shows signs of genre overuse.
The movie can be categorized into two types of scenes: interviews and narratives. In the interviews, members of the unstable and delusional cast of mascots, coaches and judges sincerely describe their experiences, inadvertently revealing how hopelessly miserable they are. The narratives follow the mascot’s stories individually.
In the opening interview, Mike the Octopus and Mindy the Turtle explain the lessons that being a mascot can teach someone. These mascots are married, and Mike explains that being a mascot can improve your marriage skills because it teaches you how to not talk while someone is yelling at you.
Tommy ‘Zook’ Zucarello portrays the Blue Lake Mallards’ mascot called The Fist, a violent and inappropriate giant fist known for getting into fights with the opposing team. While he is still eligible to compete for the WMA’s coveted Fluffy Award, he is banned from six stadiums for “physical incidents” with other team’s mascots. He even describes himself as the bad boy of mascots.
Cindy Babineaux, a recurring character in Guest’s films, is the Amelia Earhart College for Women’s Alvin the Armadillo. One of the more esoteric mascots, Cindy is a specialist in interpretive dance and is completely disconnected from reality.
This is a trait shared between every character in “Mascots:” an unhealthy lack of self-awareness. None of them seem to realize how they are judged by others, and the audience is meant to laugh at them for this.
One recurring character, Upton French, embodies this trait to the point of being a living Norm Macdonald routine. French, along with other similarly named crazies, makes awkward appearances with simple idiot gag bits.
The few boring threads of story are woven around these out-of-place bits with random characters, lending to the feeling that none of this is remotely real. No one’s performance can be convincing when they are all basically a different incarnation of the obsessed and oblivious weirdo. Well-written awkwardness is funny for a few minutes, but it becomes painfully stale after an hour. And, it does last for more than an hour.
Should you see it? Eh. Try something else.
While this movie’s premise seems absurd, it is in fact grounded in reality. The Universal Cheerleaders Association holds annual mascot competitions similar to the one in “Mascots.” Almost exactly like the one in “Mascots,” actually. What at first seems to be a madcap satire is in fact a very honest recreation of the real thing in all its awkward misguided glory.
Netflix Originals offer a platform for unknown and underfunded producers to present their work to a massive audience. If Netflix had not been there to accept ideas other networks denied, we would not have shows like “Stranger Things” and movies like “Beasts of No Nation.” But, sometimes, ideas are better left unaccepted.
“Mascots” is not a good movie. Guest tried and failed to copy his previous successes and ended up with an unoriginal mess. It has its occasional funny moments, but they might not be worth searching for. For those interested in watching a 30 minute sequence of mascot routines, this might be the movie for you. Otherwise, watch “Black Mirror” instead.