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Movie review: 'And They're Off…'

Mockumentary's cast, led by Sean Astin, deftly handles the subject (horse racing) under the direction of Rob Schiller, in his feature debut.

October 29, 2011|By Gary Goldstein, Special to the Los Angeles Times
  • Sean Astin and Cheri Oteri star in "And They're Off..."
Sean Astin and Cheri Oteri star in "And They're Off..." (Harper Smith )

The creative and marketing team behind the horse-racing mockumentary "And They're Off..." may have shot themselves in the, er, hoof by keeping this diamond in the rough away from reviewers.

Turns out, the movie (filmed locally at Hollywood Park and Pomona's Fairplex Park) is a consistently amusing, sometimes hilarious spoof in the Christopher Guest mold; a warmly cockeyed look at a clumsy, yet hope-springs-eternal horse trainer, Dusty Sanders (Sean Astin), who's on a rocky ("Rocky?") road back to the winner's circle as a documentary camera crew follows his every hapless move.

Astin, terrific here, gets ace support from a crack ensemble of supporting jokesters including Cheri Oteri as Dusty's hair-trigger, jockey girlfriend; Martin Mull as his supportive, cross-dressing dad; and James ("Little JJ") Lewis as Dusty's goofily gung-ho assistant trainer.

Playing the clueless new owners of the zero-rated horse they hire Dusty to train, Mark Moses, Gigi Rice, Peter Jacobson and Mo Collins are a collective crack-up.

Like the best spoofs, much of the movie's gold comes by way of its fleeting bits and throwaway lines (too many gems to recount here). Veteran TV director Rob Schiller, in his feature debut, manages the mayhem smartly and nimbly, preserving the random joys of Alan Grossbard's clever script while allowing his agile cast ample room to play.

Most importantly, Schiller knows just where to cut for maximum comic effect, never allowing a scene — and thereby the film — to overstay its welcome. And compared to many of today's often-bloated, big-screen comedies, that's rare.

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