DVD Release Date:  March 2, 2010 
Theatrical Release Date:  November 6, 2009
Rating:  PG-13 (for some crude humor)
Genre:  Comedy
Run Time:  90 min.
Director:  Jared Hess
Actors:  Michael Angarano, Jemaine Clement, Hector Jimenez, Edgar Oliver, Sam Rockwell, Mike White, Jennifer Coolidge, Halley Feiffer

The potential audience for Gentlemen Broncos encompasses lovers of bad science fiction, B-movies (or lower grade) and the strangely endearing film Napoleon Dynamite. Lovers of good comedy, however, are advised to look elsewhere.

Jared Hess, the writer/director of Dynamite and Nacho Libre, has followed those hit films with this far less successful, often strained look at a young writer surrounded by people who take advantage of him. The story pits Benjamin (Michael Angarano), an aspiring science-fiction author, against Chevalier (Jemaine Clement), an established genre hack facing a career dead end.

Urged by his publisher to get in touch with his fan base, Chevalier serves as honored guest at the Cletus Festival, where he shares his expertise on crucial sci-fi building blocks such as character names (always add "onius," he advises). The pompous Chevalier barely has time to judge the entries in the Cletus fiction competition, which includes a top prize of a 1,000-copy print run of the winning story, to be sold in "select bookstores."

Bad news from Chevalier's publisher—his latest work is unpublishable—drives the author to a desperate act: He reads Benjamin's story, changes the protagonist's name from Bronco to Brutus, and adds a not-so-subtle homosexual undercurrent to the story. He then sends it off under his own name to his publisher, who greets it enthusiastically. Benjamin remains unaware of the theft of his book until much later.

Hess supplements the story of Benjamin and Chevalier with a movie-within-the-movie of Yeast Lords: The Bronco Years, an adaptation of Benjamin's story by new filmmaker friend Lonnie (Hector Jimenez), who buys the rights to Benjamin's story and turns it into a DIY camcorder feature. The tale of Bronco/Brutus (Sam Rockwell) and an array of adversaries looks and feels like something out of "Mystery Science Theater 3000," but without the commentary that made "MST3K" features tolerable. Yeast Lords is amusing for a minute or two, but Hess devotes long stretches of Gentlemen Broncos to this story, as though the strength of Gentlemen Broncos resides in the mini-movie.

It doesn't. Gentlemen Broncos is undone by an underwritten lead character (Angarano does his best with the slight role) who is upstaged by Jemaine Clement's vivid, hysterical portrayal of Chevalier—the film's one highlight. Although it's not enough to recommend the film, Clement's performance brings the dormant film to life with his first scene and sustains interest in the proceedings until his character, too, runs out of gas, and Gentlemen Broncos limps to its feeble, unfunny conclusion.

And that's the problem with Gentlemen Broncos. For a comedy, the humor that should be its primary attribute is sorely lacking. The film is as scattershot and amateurish as Lonnie's woeful Yeast Lords production, and its faith element—Benjamin and his mom attend church, and have a painting of Jesus hanging on the wall of their home—is, like the various characters, never well developed.

Hess loads the film with oddball side characters whose mannerisms are less amusing than annoying or obnoxious. Amateur filmmaker Lonnie, who takes advantage of Benjamin's naiveté, is more creepy than funny, and Mike White, as Benjamin's fellow church member and assigned "guardian angel"—well, he's more creepy than funny, too.

Come to think of it, the film's terrible title, Gentlemen Broncos, could have been much clearer. My suggestion? Creepshow.


Questions? Comments? Contact the writer at
crosswalkchristian@verizon.net.