Benjamin Purvis (Michael Angarano) is a budding science fiction writer invited to the prestigious Cletus Fest – the best writers’ camp in the state of Arizona. Dr. Ronald Chevalier (Jermaine Clement) is the keynote speaker at the event and one of the judges who will be rating the attendees' works for the grand prize, the publishing of a 1000 book printing for distribution across the country. However, the good doctor is having career troubles of his own and decides to steal Benjamin’s manuscript, “Yeast Lords,” and submit it as his own. This begins a battle for justice and artistic integrity in “Gentlemen Broncos.”
Following his surprise debut film, “Napoleon Dynamite,” and less than surprising sophomore effort, “Nacho Libre,” writer-helmer Jared Hess tries to recapture the goofy charm of “Napoleon” – and fails miserably. “Gentlemen Broncos” is a mishmash of dull, sometime ugly, people who see themselves as stars and rising stars but, in the end, are just dull, sometimes ugly, people.
Benjamin is an uber-nerd who practices his sci-fi writing trade alone, with only his always-positive mom (Jennifer Coolidge) to act as his upbeat critic. His invitation to the writers’ fest, led by his idol Dr. Ronald, seems to be his ticket to fame, until Chevalier blatantly steals his prized book, changes the names of the characters, and publishes it as his own, unbeknownst to Benjamin. Meanwhile, haughty, aspiring French romance writer Tabatha (Halley Feiffer) and local filmmaker, large-mouthed Lonnie Donaho (Hector Jimenez), offer to buy the story and make it into a movie, with less than professional results. Benjamin is helpless to stop either party from butchering his beloved book.
Hess, with co-scribe Jerusha Hess, succeeds in making a comedy that is devoid of humor. I sat, stone-faced, through the interminably long 90-minute tome as Benjamin, played woodenly by Angarano, helplessly watches his novel destroyed by the ham-handed efforts of others. The result is a movie that I simply wanted to see end and let me go home. Sure, there are a couple of okay things about “Gentlemen Broncos.” Jennifer Coolidge tries her best as Ben’s supportive mom, always encouraging her son in his writing endeavors (and, in the end, is the hero of the film). Jermaine Clement, playing Dr. Chevalier as a cross between James Mason and Alan Rickman, is arrogant fun as the poser who will stop at nothing, even plagiarizing, to keep his career moving upward. Unfortunately, neither of these actors can overcome the bland dullness of the story.
“Gentlemen Broncos” is a case of diminishing returns for the filmmakers. The lack of likable characters (with the exception of Jennifer Coolidge), the stupid (as opposed to goofy) faux films that devolve from Benjamin’s book and clumsy direction and writing by the Hesses makes this a film that should be avoided at all cost. Life is too precious to waste it watching a disaster like this one. I rarely say this, but I give it an F.
"Gentlemen Broncos" proves that the Hesses owe a great debt to their "Napoleon Dynamite" star Jon Heder (used here briefly in juvenile fantasy sequences). In their third film, even with a cast including "Snow Angels'" Michael Angarano, Mike White and "Flight of the Conchords'" Jermaine Clement, they flatline. Bodily fluids, both human and animal, pass as humor. The script is condescending to its characters to the point that poor Jennifer Coolidge should file abuse charges. Only Jermaine Clement musters any kind of laughs - his puffed up sci-fi writer is a hoot giving a seminar on how to name characters. If "Gentlemen Broncos" is meant as homage to sci-fi, the Hesses better stay away from fan conventions. D-
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