Directed by James Phillips and Doug Barber
Toronto International Film Festival entry
By Jonathan Popalis
Having a storyline is not exceptionally important when it comes to documentaries; the viewer should be focusing on the message. However, there’s still a need to have at least one character to whom the viewer can relate the mate-rial.Herein lies the basic problem with Behind the Mascot, a recent Toronto International Film Festival entry by James Phillips and Doug Barber.
Behind the Mascot is a simple ‘docu-comedy’ chronicling the stories and myths of mascots, these coming from sports teams, to restaurants, to TV shows.It seeks to show the humanity behind the costumed individuals and that, while they may look like big cartoon characters, the people behind the masks are very real, as are their lives.
As the website says, the film “takes you inside the stinky, sweaty, hundred and twenty-degree suit and exposes the hilarious, heartbreaking and all-too-often dangerous underbelly of life as a mascot.”
The first half of the film indeed does stick to people who have taken the mascot career path, most notably Philadelphia Phillies mascot The Phanatic, Kansas City Chiefs mascot KC Wolf, and Saint Paul Saints mascot Mudonna.
However, the number of interviewees grows exponentially. Once the movie gets to the halfway point the filmmakers have spoken with so many people that, while the clips themselves are entertaining, as a whole they add up to very little. There’s even less connection to the theme and, most importantly, to the audience.
This isn’t to say this film is not worth the watch. Stories of heat exhaustion in the suits, mascots getting the crap beaten out of them, and how one trains to become a mascot, are the film’s brightest moments?-this is when it appears to have the most focus and motivation.The narration by Daniel Stern, whose most noteworthy voiceovers were heard on The Wonder Years, adds a star quality that is usually sorely lacking in documentaries.
Still, once the film gets off track, it doesn’t get back on. It begins to delve into issues like racist and blasphemous team names, which are interesting topics, but they have nothing to do with the subject matter and end up detracting from the overall theme and purpose of the film.
Despite the lack of direction and flow, Behind the Mascot is humorous and enjoyable.While the need to focus more on the theme is needed, its highlights make it comical and refreshing, and its good points definitely outweigh its bad ones.