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Sam Rockwell stars in two movies within Jared Hess’s Gentlemen Broncos.
Sam Rockwell stars in two movies within Jared Hess’s Gentlemen Broncos.

Failed parody suggests a director who's fighting above his weight Add to ...

  • Country USA
  • Language English

Gentlemen Broncos

  • Directed by Jared Hess
  • Written by Jared Hess and Jerusha Hess
  • Starring Michael Angarano and Jemaine Clement
  • Classification: PG

There's a lesson behind Gentlemen Broncos , the new film from director Jared Hess: Don't try to mock above your talent level.

Hess's attempt at parodying the world of cheesy sci-fi feels like it was made by a hack amateur director. Perhaps only really good filmmakers can parody bad filmmaking (think of Tim Burton's Ed Wood or Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights ). Hess's work is more in keeping with Kevin Smith's efforts in Zack and Miri Make a Porno : Smith got the inept part right, but without the distance of parody. Hess's story (co-written with his wife, Jerusha) follows a moping teenaged fantasy writer, Benjamin (Michael Angarano), who lives in rural Utah with his widowed mother Judith (Jennifer Coolidge), who designs garish nightgowns for a living.

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What made Napoleon Dynamite work was that the protagonist was so irrepressibly oblivious to his status as a social misfit: He was out to win. By contrast, Benjamin is whipped before he begins: It's as if Napoleon Dynamite were built around the mouth-breathing Pedro.

At a writer's camp, Benjamin meets his idol, the pompous Dr. Ron Chevalier (Jemaine Clement of HBO's Flight of the Concords ). Later, Benjamin learns that Chevalier has stolen his latest opus, Yeast Lords: The Bronco Years .

Before he discovers Chevalier's plagiarism, Benjamin gets involved with a group of oddballs who set out to make a movie of Yeast Lords . They include sadistic tease and producer Tabatha (Halley Feiffer), her cross-dressing filmmaker friend Lonnie (Héctor Jiménez) and Dusty (Mike White), Judith's burned-out, mullet-headed boyfriend, who carries about an incontinent albino python.

Throughout Gentlemen Broncos, we're exposed to different versions of the Yeast Lords movie, or the plagiarized version ( Brutus and Balzaak ), both starring Sam Rockwell either as a hillbilly cracker or a simpering castrato. The films are incontestably weird - animatronic stags with rockets blasting from their rear ends, pink vomit bombs and women warriors with mammary cannons - without being particularly imaginative.

Gentlemen Broncos Official trailer from Fox Searchlight

The geek comedy that worked in Napoleon Dynamite - the flat shooting style, off-beat timing and cast of misfits - falls flat here. Hess seems to know it, because he compensates by ratcheting up the crudity, casting extras with malformed faces and filling the screen with enough flying vomit and poop to suggest a really bad day at the daycare.

The one almost pleasant surprise is the performance of Clement as the dandyish, pompous Dr. Chevalier. With his deep chocolate tones and purple vocabulary ("So many juvenescent, ripe minds"), he's the one sign of intelligent life in this Hess universe.

Follow on Twitter: @liamlacey

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