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.

CAUTIONS:

  • Language/Profanity:  "Apes-it"; an author says his book contains "mild swearing and … violence"; multiple reference to "gonads"; "cr-p"; a woman asks to borrow money to buy tampons; "bast-rdizing my work"; "bu-thole."
  • Smoking/Drinking/Drugs:  A woman appears to down several pills with liquor after her advances are rejected by a younger man.
  • Sex/Nudity:  None, but a strange scene of a man cooing into a woman's ear while lotion is rubbed into her hand; book-cover illustrations and action scenes of women whose breasts are used as lethal weapons; an injured literary hero is said to "sew his junk back on," and we see a shot of him doing this, clothed, from behind; a woman tells a man that they "shared suckle at my mother's breast"; Benjamin's friend says his mom is "smokin' hot"; mother reviews an insert from her bra; a woman enters a hotel room where Benjamin is waiting for her, but nothing transpires; verbal reference to "mammary cannon," "breast meat," ovaries, "gorgeous hag"; Benjamin's mother sells something called "country balls," the name of which leads to double entendres; kissing after an instance of vomiting; a transsexual character mentions how large his breasts are; mother is propositioned by a fashion designer; Benjamin complains that a director has turned the protagonist in Benjamin's story "into a tranny."
  • Violence/Crime:  A cat attacks a man; injection of a drug; some gross-out scenes of animal defecation; blow-dart attacks; a flying deer shoots at people on the ground, and the hero fights back by spraying a purple stream of liquid from his mouth; scenes of vomiting, with leftover vomit shown on the faces of the sick; an actor says he punched a director in the neck; Benjamin throws a statue through the window of a man who propositioned his mother, and the man responds by shooting at Benjamin and his mother with a pistol; more B-movie violence includes footage of actors being shot and killed.
  • Religion:  Benjamin is assigned a "Guardian Angel" from his church, because, his mother says, Benjamin doesn't have any friends; a painting of Jesus hangs on the wall of Benjamin's home; shot of mother and son in church listening to a choir; Benjamin's mother asks him to pray that a designer would like the collection of gowns she's designed; Chevalier makes a prayer-like gesture toward a fan and says, "May the gods bless you."