What has a conchord, a nacho, a lord of dogtown, and two different rockwells? The new comedy Gentlemen Broncos, from the husband and wife writing team of Jared and Jerusha Hess. The film packs in more laughs than their previous endeavors(Napoleon Dynamite, Nacho Libre), and possesses the same feel good qualities. Hess gives you a helping of the quirky behavior you've come to expect, but serves it up with a hilarious side of the most ridiculous sci-fi worlds you could NEVER imagine. So pack up some yeast, and let's explore the world of Gentlemen Broncos.
The film centers on Benjamin(Michael Angarano, Lords Of Dogtown), a 17 year old sci-fi writing prodigy, who is homeschooled by his aspiring nightgown designier mother(Jennifer Coolidge). The story begins when Benjamin attends a writers camp where his idol, legendary sci-fi author Dr. Ronald Chevalier(Jemaine Clement, Flight of the Conchords) is teaching. Benjamin submits his best novella, Yeast Lords: The Bronco Years, into a contest to be judged by Chevalier. While at the camp, he also befriends a couple of equally awkward misfits - the oddly attractive romance-novelist Tabatha(Halley Feiffer) and a "prolific" auteur named Lonnie(Hector Jimenez, Nacho Libre), who has over 80 "films"(mostly trailers) under his belt. Benjamin's novel attracts a couple of adaptations. Lonnie options the novel to be made into a low (perhaps no)budget film. But unbeknownst to Benjamin, Chevalier makes minor changes to the book and sells it as his own in a desperate ploy to save his own failing career.
Hess brilliantly balances the attention between the truly ensemble cast, all while juggling them in the three different worlds the movie takes place in. You see different sections of the book told though: Benjamin's original concept of the characters, in which Sam Rockwell plays the tough and rugged Bronco. Chevalier's bastardized version, The Chronicles of Brutus and Balzaak, in which he changes the names, and turns the hero into a "tranny"(Rockwell once again). And Lonnie's lo-fi version of the film, where several liberties are taken, much to Benjamin's horror.
Though the movie drags slightly in the third act, it may not even feel that way the second time around. Because where the Hess' writing, and Jared's directing flourishes, is in repeat viewings. There is so much subtlety in the performances, that you often miss jokes the first time around. The different comedic beats going on simultaneously is like trying to name every instrument playing in a symphony. That said, some of the unexpected "gross out" humor and gags they had in Broncos, that include feces and vomit, may hinder some out there from going to catch it a second time... so be warned.
Angarano's performance as Benjamin will probably be overshadowed by the comedic stand-outs, like Mike White as Benjamin's "guardian angel" and star of Lonnie's version of Yeast Lords. But what holds the film together is Angarano's ability to wrap you up in the same frustration that the character is going through. You're really invested in the character, though it may be due to how sorry you feel for him.
Jemaine Clement as Chevalier puts the many "overly confident-dumb guys" that Will Ferrell has played to shame. The plagiarizing author and suffix expert is the most well-honed character of the pic. The best running gag is that he dons a blue-tooth at all times, but always speaks on a regular cell-phone. There's no doubt every kid will be trying out their Chevalier impressions at school.
It feels like everyone got equal screen time, though that's most likely not "technically" the case(if you had a stop watch). You were truly satisfied with every character's development. Maybe it's because Hess was able to squeeze every awkward dead pan expression out of these actors. Maybe it's because every seemingly absurd plot line is satisfyingly resolved. Ultimately though, it rests on Hess' ability to make even the most unrelatable characters likeable, and the smallest moments memorable. The question is: will Gentlemen Broncos be bankable?
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