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Gentlemen Broncos (2009)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 3/2/2010

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/11/2010

In my recent review for The Box, I wrote about how Richard Kelly was seen by many as the next savior of alternative cinema, but things didn't really pan out. The same can be said of Jared Hess. When Napoleon Dynamite came out, there were few who didn't comment, "Well, that was an odd movie." But, it somehow struck a chord with audiences and became a minor hit. His second film, Nacho Libre, was just as odd, and again, found an audience. However, Hess' third film, Gentlemen Broncos, barely got a release. Is it that bad? And does it mark a downturn in Hess' popularity?

Michael Angarano stars in Gentlemen Broncos as Benjamin Purvis, a teenaged boy who lives in a small town in Utah. He is homeschooled by his mother, Judith (Jennifer Coolidge), a seamstress who creates bizarre clothes. They live in a domed house. Benjamin's passion is writing science-fiction stories, which he dedicates to his late father, who was a game warden. As the story begins, Benjamin is off to "Cletus Fest", a program for young writers. While there, he meets Tabatha (Halley Feiffer), another writer, and her friend, Lonnie (Hector Jimenez), an amateur filmmaker. Benjamin is excited about the workshop because his favorite author, Dr. Ronald Chevailer (Jemaine Clement) is going to be there. He's even more excited when he learns that Chevalier is judging a competition. Benjamin enters his novella Yeast Lords: The Bronco Years into the contest. However, Chevalier is down on his luck and his publisher has rejected his latest novel. He reads Yeast Lords and decides to steal it. He changes the character names and his publisher deems it an instant classic. Meanwhile, Benjamin goes back to his old life and struggles with Tabatha and Lonnie trying to make a movie from one of his stories, and his mom's odd new friend, Dusty (Mike White). Will poor Benjamin ever catch a break?

Like any good weird cinema, Gentlemen Broncos sounds fairly tame on paper. The movie has two parallel stories. Benjamin submits his story to the contest and Chavalier steals it for his own. We've seen this kind of thing before. The bulk of the movie deals with Benjamin's homelife. He and his mother barely make ends meet from her nightgown business and the oddly hard popcorn balls that she sells. Feeling that Benjamin has no friends, his mother signs him up for the "Guardian Angel" program and this Dusty, a guy who looks like the bass player for Styx, enters their life. Tabatha and Lonnie both act like they don't like Benjamin, yet they always want him around for things. All of this causes Benjamin to have very low self-esteem.

But, coming from Jared Hess, and his co-writer/wife Jerusha Hess, nothing is normal in Gentlemen Broncos. Throughout the film, we learn the story of Yeast Lords: The Bronco Years not by anyone reading it, but by the movie illustrating it for us. In these sequences, Sam Rockwell plays Bronco and he is knee-deep in a world of very odd occurrences and cheesy special effects. Once Chevalier steals the story, we see things from his point of view and Rockwell's take on "Brutus" is hilarious. Dusty acts as if he's stoned all of the time and his hobby is shooting poisoned darts. Oh, did I mention that he has a pet snake? Lonnie is almost unintelligible and Tabatha's behavior is always changing, as if she has multiple personalities. In the middle of all of this is Benjamin. Of Hess' leading men, Benjamin is the most accessible, in terms of his behavior, but he's such a put-upon sad sack, that his perpetual worried look makes him an odd character.

When Napoleon Dynamite was building its audience in theaters, MTV got behind it. Nacho Libre got a huge boost from Nickelodeon. But, Gentlemen Broncos totally went under the radar. The question is, why? And better yet, why the hatred for this movie? -- It has a 15% on rottentomatoes.com. In terms of tone and quirkiness, it's not that different from Hess' other films. It contains the same odd display of juvenile humor which never uses profanity or overly sexual jokes. Hess continues to find very unusual looking people to play extras. I have to say that I laughed out loud several times, and the scenes with Sam Rockwell (who steals the show) must be seen to be believed. The movie isn't as charming (is that the right word?) as Napoleon Dynamite, but it's much more accessible than Nacho Libre. The weak link here may be Jemaine Clement's character. Clement is good at playing a jerk, but the character is never funny, save for the running gag that he wears a Bluetooth device, but always uses other phones. I think that if you liked Hess' other films, you'll find something to like here, and those who found Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre too outlandish and silly, may be surprised to see that Gentlemen Broncos is (somewhat) more grounded.

Gentlemen Broncos uses the word gonad way too much on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 36 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source material. Hess has shot the film in a very natural style. The colors look very realistic and the image is never overly dark or bright. The image shows a nice amount of detail and we can see the textures on fabrics. The picture's depth is quite good as well. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. During the everyday scenes, the audio is good, as it features audible dialogue, good stereo effects, and music which doesn't overpower the other sounds. However, the track really kicks into high gear with the Yeast Lords scenes, as we are treated to impressive surround sound and nicely done subwoofer effects.

The Gentlemen Broncos Blu-ray Disc contains a small assortment of extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY with Writer/Director Jared Hess, Co-writer Jerusha Hess and Director of Photography Munn Powell. The Disc contains five DELETED SCENES which run about 6 minutes. Two of these deal with Lonnie's movies, but the best one offers us more Sam Rockwell. The Disc contains a 9 minute OUTTAKES REEL (which is subtitled "A Buttload of Keepsakes"). "One Nutty Movie: Behind the Scenes of Gentlemen Broncos" (15 minutes) provides a great deal of on-set footage, allowing us to see the cast and crew at work. We also get in-camera comments from Rockwell, Coolidge, and others. We get 18 "Mini-Docs" which run about 1 minute each. These introduce us to actors, contain odd behind-the-scenes footage, or actually how some part of the movie was made.

Review Copyright 2010 by Mike Long