Two-headed calf

By By Mark Mitchell

By Mark Mitchell

“For Your Consideration” Warner Independent Pictures Directed by Christopher Guest Written by Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy Starring Catherine O’Hara, Harry Shearer, Parker Posey, John Michael Higgins and Jennifer Coolidge Rated PG-13/86 minutes Opened Nov. 22, 2006Two-and-a-half out of four stars

Some of us look forward to Christopher Guest films the way others pine for new installments of James Bond or “Star Trek.” Last together in 2003, Guest and his regular bunch of players refined their craft with their deeply affectionate, folkie-reunion mockumentary “A Mighty Wind,” which may well turn out to be one of the most perfect (and most moving) comedies of the decade.

The only problem with perfection is that it’s hard, if not impossible, to top. Guest’s latest film, “For Your Consideration,” may have just as many genuinely funny lines as “A Mighty Wind” and the actors are as sharply attuned to one another’s rhythms as ever. But the picture just doesn’t have the same emotional depth as “A Mighty Wind,” partly because awards season–eight weeks of blow-dried, sexually available newscasters making predictions and gross industry-wide masturbation that commences Thanksgiving Day and culminates on the night of the Academy Awards in late February–is itself a parody, but also because the characters this time are less defined.

Guest’s usual ensemble of actors are all present and accounted for–from Eugene Levy and Fred Willard to Parker Posey and Catherine O’Hara–but a group of semi-washed-up actors cast in a third-rate period film invoke little pity.

The estranged husband-and-wife folk duo in “A Mighty Wind” (played with prickly brilliance by Levy and O’Hara) who reunite, reluctantly, for one last performance are part of a rarer breed, though. Old-time protest singers living in an age of indifference, they take one last longing look at an era that can never be recaptured–and realize it’s just as well those days are over, anyway.

O’Hara and Levy are blissfully funny, but their fractured, shorthand banter is that of a couple who nearly killed each other on the battleground of marriage. After years of separation, they’re better off without each other–and yet are somehow completely lost.

There are no such truly vivid characters in “For Your Consideration.” These people beg for a violent skewering, but true to form, Guest and company never pull out the long knives.

The action centers on the film-within-a-film–a horrid, histrionic melodrama called “Home For Purim,” starring Catherine O’Hara as an ailing mother hoping for a visit from her estranged daughter, played by Parker Posey. When O’Hara learns that some random Web site has declared her Academy Award material, Oscar fever sweeps the set, with all her D-list co-stars hoping the film is their ticket to better things.

So few filmmakers know how to make an entertaining trifle these days, and “For Your Consideration” is just that–at least. Even if the film feels slender and unsubstantial compared with its predecessors, the actors still work beautifully together, all attuned to the same weird signal.

In the end, though, there are few belly laughs to be found here, only rueful chortles. After all, egotistical, insecure actors–like the poor–are always with us.

“Well, my dear Jane, I believe the dog has buried his bone in a corpse in Milwaukee. Call it a hunch–a hunch of pure deduction.” Fred Willard makes absurd suppositions in “For Your Consideration.”