Fox // 2009 // 89 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // March 10th, 2010
Mount your battle stag.
Jared Hess, the director of Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre presents another film that's quirky. Believe it or not.
All Benjamin Purvis (Michael Angarano) wants to be is a sci-fi writer. His favorite author, Dr. Chevalier (Jermaine Clement) found great success as a teenager, and Ben feels like he has the story to vault him and his overwhelmed mother out of monetary hell. Said tale is "Yeast Lords," a riveting and nonsensical story about a hero (Sam Rockwell) pitted against an evil Cyclops brigade for control over magic, interstellar yeast.
When he attends a fantasy writers' conference, Ben is stunned to come face to with Chevalier himself -- and even more stunned when he realizes that his hero has stolen his story and printed it as his own.
Jared Hess runs hot and cold for me. Actually, it's more like lukewarm and cold. Napoleon Dyanmite was plenty watchable and sporadically funny, but think about the flick for a bit and it becomes uncomfortably clear how contrived its quirkiness really is. Nacho Libre? That's just straight-up mediocrity, unfunny and emotionally inert. Here we have Gentlemen Broncos and I guess it would be my favorite of Jared Hess's three outings, but not by much...and that's not saying a lot.
I didn't laugh as much as I did watching Napoleon Dynamite, but the guffaws were of higher quality. The fantasy writer's conference was consistently amusing and Chevalier's tortured lecture on trolls' names was gold. Unfortunately, the comic sensibilities of Broncos peaked there, and never hit those heights again.
But it wasn't for a lack of trying. Portions of the film are devoted to the re-creation of the "Yeast Lords" story, with Sam Rockwell engaging in all sorts of over-the-top slapstick; like sewing his testicles back on after they were harvested by an evil scientist (who is subsequently mauled by a housecat), riding on a rocket-propelled stag and vomiting pink fluid like a fire hose. Plus there are Cyclops(es?ii?) and a bald woman and robot deer farting. Sounds like a good time on paper, right? I'm sure that's what the producers thought, that these deer missiles and stuff would be weird and funny, but in action these sequences are simply weird.
Though Chevalier's plagiarism is the main story thrust, it's given the shaft in the script. The conflict is never explored and comes to a sudden and tacked-on stop. In lieu of this arc's development, there's a lengthy, superfluous sub-story about Ben's eccentric friends making a cheap movie version of "Yeast Lords," which, as best as I can discern, is mainly forged so we can sort-of-laugh at a parody of low-budget, VHS movie-making. Another time-killer is an out-of-nowhere subplot about Ben's mom's encounter with a shifty fashion mogul. Again, I'm thinking that last bit was included primarily for the scene where Ben dips a couple of blow-darts into dog poop and fires them at a gunman's torso. Really.
As underwhelming as all this was, there's a major plus of Gentlmen Broncos: Ben. He's a great character, the finest protagonist in Hess's films, far more likable than Napoleon Dynamite and distinctly not Jack Black. Angarano infuses him with a hapless charm, but he's obviously serious about his craft and often betrays the emotional damage sustained from the loss of his bad-ass game warden father. Ben's relationship with his mother is loving and refreshingly absent of rebellious melodrama. I was rooting for this kid from moment one and immediately liked him.
Fox's Blu-ray is equally likable. The 1.85:1 transfer is high quality, rich in detail and color and particularly well-performing during the fantasy sequences. That is really some of the best CGI-powered pink vomit I've ever seen. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is a clean mix, active during the sci-fi scenes, though low-key back in reality (aural aspects of Hess's films tend to be low-key in general). Extras: a lively filmmakers commentary, outtakes, a small amount of uninteresting deleted scenes, a series of marketing mini-documentaries and a very good making-of documentary. Alas, no fancy Blu-ray bonuses, for which this film would have been perfectly suited.
Uneven like the rest of Jared Hess's body of work, but Gentlemen Broncos has a good heart and a handful of hilarious moments.
Not Guilty. A C+ effort.
Review content copyright © 2010 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted Scenes
* Gag Reel