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  Gentlemen Broncos Science Fiction Doubtful Feature
Year: 2009
Director: Jared Hess
Stars: Michael Angarano, Jemaine Clement, Mike White, Jennifer Coolidge, Halley Feiffer, Héctor Jiménez, Sam Rockwell, Suzanne May, Josh Pais, John Baker, John Pleshette, Clive Revill, Edgar Oliver, Johnny Hoops, Steve Berg, Jizelle Jade, Jeanette Puhich
Genre: Comedy, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Benjamin Purvis (Michael Angarano) has been home schooled all his young life by his mother Judith (Jennifer Coolidge), giving him a lot more time to write his own science fiction novels. None of these have been published, he prefers to hide his light under a bushel, but an opportunity has arisen to allow him to be taught how to improve his writing with a professional author: renowned Raymond Chevalier (Jemaine Clement) is holding a creative writing class, and Benjamin has applied for it. On the way there, he meets two other aspiring authors, Tabitha (Halley Feiffer) and Lonnie (Héctor Jiménez) but quickly begins to feel out of his depth, and then, worse, he can learn nothing here...

Director Jared Hess hit the big time with Napoleon Dynamite, a slice of offbeat comedy starring unknowns which fast became a cult movie. But the thing with that film was, there were just as many who didn't get the joke than those who did, maybe more, and with each successive release from him and his wife Jerusha Hess (they collaborated on screenplays) the appreciation of his sense of humour dwindled to almost nothing. The follow-up to Napoleon had been a Jack Black vehicle, Nacho Libre, that garnered poor reviews but thanks to the leading man managed to make money, yet the writing was on the wall, so to speak, and Gentlemen Broncos won little but hostility from critics worldwide.

Not only that, but audiences felt the same way, with the common issue being they believed there was no affection in Hess's sendups, he was purely lampooning the weirdos in life to make himself look better in comparison. This was apparently news to him, as this piece was a heartfelt tribute to his mother in his eyes, as Benjamin was intended to represent the young Jared whose deeply eccentric concepts did not seem commercial but his mom had encouraged him all the way to success; for a while, anyway. Yet you could see why so many simply thought he was being arch and pissing on his characters from a great height - he just wasn't effective at conveying the empathy.

Therefore what you had with Gentlemen Broncos, a largely detested and now-forgotten comedy, was a sincere acknowledgement of Hess's version of "his people" from this director which almost everyone believed was being hateful, and even if you were aware of the director's intentions, that was what it looked like. It did not help that the humour started wacky and ended up as if it had been translated from the Martian original, with interludes dramatizing Benjamin's book starring Sam Rockwell which transmogrified into Chevalier's bestselling plagiarism of it, in a way that neither improved nor cheapened it since the original was so blatantly bad, akin to fanfic in a manner that did actual science fiction something of a disservice. The notion that some of this genre could be perfectly decent did not seem to have crossed Hess's mind.

To add to the general bafflement, he included grossout humour, nothing sexual, more to do with other bodily functions, so a pet snake shits on someone, the book is about a testicle removal, and there was a scene where Benjamin vomits, spends the rest of it with his mouth caked in puke, which he passes on to Tabitha when she gets amorous with him out of the blue - she even swallows some of it. The Hesses were Mormons, and maybe that odd offshoot of Christianity bred a strange line in what they found funny, because it could have been appropriate that space aliens were the subject of some of this: it appeared to have been written with an audience of space aliens in mind. It had a certain dedication to its skewed vision that was weirdly admirable, so uncommercial was it, but you would not mistake it for a classic movie unless you were similarly skewed already. The cast held interest, and for a while it looked like a promising parody of the sci-fi writer's world, but that did not last. Maybe Hess's mother liked it. Music by David Wingo.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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