I remember seeing the trailer for Gentleman Broncos and thinking it looked like something I really wanted to see. It appeared quirky, bizarre, funny, and oddball. Right up my alley. Then I found it was from director Jared Hess and written by Hess and his writing partner and wife Jerusha Hess. Now, if those names sound familiar, they should. They broke out back in 2004 with the hit Napoleon Dynamite. A few years later they turned Jack Black into a wrestler in Nacho Libre. Gentleman Broncos is the next in their run of films based on quirky characters and slightly off settings. Can they keep their streak of interest alive?
Sadly, I cannot recommend Gentleman Broncos. No, it is not the worst ever and if anyone tells you it is, well, don't believe them. There are a lot of movies, good and bad, and to call one the best or worst ever is just unnecessary. With this being true, Gentleman Broncos is far from the worst ever, but it is also far from being a good film. It has a lot of the right elements but the balance is off. The pieces fail to come together to make anything of interest and I was left thinking "well, that was weird," while not caring about any of it.
The biggest problem is that the thought process behind the movie felt that quirkiness could be used instead of heart and genuine character. So, as you watch the movie you will be introduced to character after character that is solely defined by their quirks. None of them feel real, none of them have heart, therefore there is no real reason to care about them or their journey. All you have with Gentleman Broncos are the odd scenes, strange sequences, and off-kilter atmosphere substituting for substance. It is a shame, as the basic idea behind the tale is a good one and could have been used to great effect to dig at the underbelly of Hollywood.
What is Gentleman Broncos about? It centers on young Benjamin Purvis (Michael Angarano) who loves writing science fiction stories and idolizes the writer Dr. Ronald Chevalier (Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords). Ben takes his latest story, Yeast Lords: The Bronco Years, to a teen writers convention where he gets to meet his idol. This trip also introduces him to Tabatha (Haley Feiffer), an aspiring romance novelist who is friends with independent video producer Lonnie (Hector Jimenez). This is where everything begins to fall apart for our protagonist.
Chevalier has a case of writer's block and when he sees Ben's story he becomes inspired, changes a few names, and passes it off as his own. Meanwhile, Ben sells the movie rights to Lonnie. In between the comedic drama we get a couple of different visions of what the Yeast Lords movie looks like. I won't give it away, but the visions are a little different.
That is the story. Well, there are other characters in the mix such as Jennifer Coolidge as Ben's clothes designer mother, Sam Rockwell as the fictional Bronco, and Mike White as the oddball Dusty. None of them amount to much aside from their collective quirk.
If you feel you can survive on 90 minutes of pure quirk and affectation, this is for you; otherwise you should take a pass. It is a shame, too, as both of Hess's prior features have a nice blend of quirk and heart. Those films had a handle on what needed to be done to have the characters connect with an audience. In this case they got a little too self-indulgent and the characters do not shine through as real people.
Audio/Video. The film is presented in 1.85:1 and it looks pretty good. It is not going to knock you over like some films do in high definition, but it is a solid image that does not exhibit any issues whatsoever, it just doesn't pop. I am sure you know what I mean. Where the film shines is in the fantasy elements; the colors are not exactly bright, but they take on an otherworldly feel to them that works. The audio is 5.1 DTS-HD and much like the video does its job well but does not really distinguish itself. It is solid and does not disappoint, it just doesn't jump out at you, which is probably for the best. Overall, it is a fine presentation for a lower budget film.
Extras. This disk has a few extra features on it.
- Commentary. This track features Jared Hess, Jerusha Hess, and Munn Powell and is oddly boring. It has some interesting trivia, but overall it is quite boring.
- Deleted Scenes. A few more scenes that were rightly cut from the film, making these clips you don't really need to see.
- Outtakes Reel: A Buttload of Keepsakes. These are not all that great save for the Sam Rockwell outtakes where he shows he is better than all around him.
- One Nutty Movie: Behind the Scenes of Gentlemen Broncos. This runs fifteen-minutes and is interesting in that you get to see the on set action, which I always find interesting. Also included are interview clips with the principals.
- Mini-Docs. A series of filler clips, mildly amusing, but nothing all that special.
Bottom line. I so wanted to like this and on some level I kind of liked the quirkiness. The problem is that as soon as you realize the weird characters and bizarre scenes are not leading anywhere it falls apart and it is only worth it as a curiosity and nothing more.