The summer that Napoleon Dynamite opened, I waited through all the relentless quoting and hype to see it. By the time I saw it, my response was, “That was it? This is what you’re all talking about?” It wasn’t until years later when I revisited it that I found the comedy in it all. Jared Hess’ big screen debut was actually a pretty funny movie.
When I saw Nacho Libre for the first time, I didn’t expect to like it much – figuring it too would take multiple viewings – but I was wrong. Though I loved it, I had to admit that a lot of the amusement I got from the movie stemmed from my background of having lived in Central America for a couple years. The comedy that Hess pulled out of that foreign culture was hilarious to those having experienced it. But I still wasn’t a huge fan of Hess’ work. It all felt too contrived, forced. And it definitely ripped off a lot from fellow indie comedy filmmaker Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums). Although his third film, Gentlemen Broncos, borrows a lot from Wes Anderson, without a doubt, it is his funniest film (upon first viewing) to date.
If Napoleon Dynamite took you into the weird world of an odd boy in Idaho and Nacho Libre showed you a Mexican monk’s secret aspiration of becoming a professional wrestler, then Gentlemen Broncos introduces you to small town Utah and a home-schooled boy’s obsession with bad science fiction – two things which when added together equal comedic greatness.
Michael Angarano (Almost Famous) plays the awkward teenager Benjamin. When shipped off to a home-schooled student’s writing festival, two things happen that change Benjamin’s life: he meets his favorite science fiction writer, Dr. Ronald Chevalier (Jermaine Clement, Flight of the Conchords), and he submits his own sci-fi book, “Yeast Lords,” into a nation competition where the winner receives a limited publication and cover art hand-drawn by Chevalier himself.
With heat from his editors due to writer’s block, Chevalier decides to plagiarize Yeast Lords, only slightly changing the names and characters. With no knowledge of this, Benjamin sells the rights to Yeast Lords to a tiny local production company that spits out awful short films. Wackiness ensues as things get complicated and hairy.
The best thing about Gentlemen Broncos it the science fiction aspect. Throughout the film, it jumps to live-action scenes contrasting the differences between Benjamin’s original book and Chevalier’s rewritten version of Yeast Lords. Sam Rockwell (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) plays the book’s main character Bronco in so-bad-it’s-good ’50s style science fiction scenes. Any scene featuring Rockwell is comedic gold. (Stay until the end of the credits for an addition Bronco scene).
My only problem with Gentlemen Bronco is an unnecessary, uncalled-for shoot-out scene that feels lifted right out of Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Other than that, Gentlemen Broncos is a hilarious, laugh-out-loud comedy that deserves far more credit than national reviews are giving it.
Photo credit: Fox Searchlight