Gentlemen Broncos (Blu-ray)
Directed by Jared Hess
Studio: Twentieth Century-Fox
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 89 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish, French
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: March 2, 2010
Review Date: March 2, 2010
In the world of writer-director Jared Hess, there’s quirky/fun (Napoleon Dynamite) and there’s quirky/thud (Gentlemen Broncos). What do you do when you launch one of independent cinema’s oddest and most endearing comedies like Napoleon Dynamite and you want to explore similar territory in another movie? In the case of husband and wife team of Jared and Jerusha Hess, you put forth more of the same: a motley collection of eccentric humanoids with only the vaguest resemblance to the real world, and then you push them to improvise, overdo, and go for it until everyone is straining so hard to be funny and offbeat that you’re left with a muddled mess of overdone ham that only works in the odd (pun intended) moment. The rest is painfully, sometimes numbingly unfunny.
Socially awkward teen Benjamin Purvis (Michael Angarano) attends a weekend writers’ camp where he meets his idol, celebrated science fiction author Ronald Chevalier (Jemaine Clement) and even enters his novella Yeast Lords in a writing contest being judged by Chevalier. Little does he know, however, that Chevalier is going through a period of writer’s block and is about to be dropped by his publisher, so he plagiarizes Ben’s book (changing only the names of some characters and the title) and submits it to his publishers who are wild about it. Ben, meanwhile, after thinking no one was impressed by his manuscript, allows it to be bought by the quirky home video producer-director team of teens Tabatha (Halley Feiffer) and Lonnie (Hector Jimenez) who proceed to do their own hack job on Ben’s story in bringing it to the screen. Also working with Ben to maneuver the trials and tribulations of his life are his clothes designing mother Judith (Jennifer Coolidge) and a man she picks up at church to be her son’s guardian angel Dusty (Mike White).
The story by the Hesses vacillates between the (pseudo) real world of Ben and his friends and the fictionalized sci-fi world of his Yeast Lord Bronco (Sam Rockwell) as we get snatches of the singularly strange sci-fi tale Ben has concocted. Yes, it’s all wacky and nonsensical, and the sci-fi interludes seem like padding with their low tech special effects and very few laughs (laughs that aren’t increased when we switch mid-movie to Chavalier’s reworking of the character into Brutus who’s something of a transvestite). The world Ben inhabits is absurd enough to rank as its own kind of science fiction with his deadpan, spacey mother designing hideous clothes that she can’t understand why they don’t sell and the guardian angel Dusty carrying around a six foot yellow python wrapped around his body as a pet. His two friends Tabitha and Donnie have their own weird vibe, and thus it falls to Chevalier to provide the funny which wonderful improvisational actor Jemaine Clement provides off and on with his super-serious approach to his lectures and his book signings.
Director Hess has made another misstep in using Michael Angarano as his everyman leading character. The actor is a bland, doughy presence on screen, not unlikable exactly but with such inexpressive eyes and shrugging posture that he makes for an unappealing lead. Jennifer Collidge does her brain dead act once again, and while she scores less than she has in other more inspired films, her goofy presence is always welcome. Hector Jimenez takes overacting and face making to new, unrestrained heights though partner in crime Halley Feiffer does what she can with an underwritten role. Sam Rockwell gives it a mighty effort with a character that keeps changing through the movie as different hands take a crack at his story, but he’s defeated by uninspired writing.
The film’s theatrical 1.85:1 aspect ratio is delivered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. The film has a rather flat look overall and some opening scenes look a tad washed out and wan though later on, the film’s color values improve and contrast seems better regulated leading to a more dimensional picture. Sharpness is never an issue, and blacks have a good depth to them. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is only sporadically immersive with most of the film’s sound design front centered with only rare seepage into the rear channels. Even some explosions late in the sci-fi film sequences don’t carry much weight in the surrounds or the LFE channel. The audio is cleanly recorded but not very imaginatively designed.
The audio commentary is provided by co-writer/director Jared Hess, his wife/co-writer Jerusha Hess, and director of photography Munn Powell. It’s a fairly uninteresting conversation between the three of them, not very involving, and light on information.
There are five deleted scenes which can be viewed separately or in one grouping lasting 6 minutes. They’re in 480i.
The outtakes/blooper reel runs for 8 ¾ minutes and is in 480i.
“One Nutty Movie: Behind the Scenes of Gentlemen Broncos” is a rather haphazardly organized 15 ½-minute look at the making of the film featuring interviews with the director and his wife, star Sam Rockwell, and director of photography Munn Powell. This is presented in 1080p.
There are eighteen behind-the-scenes vignettes, each lasting from 1-2 minutes covering such unimportant topics as Mike White’s teeth and wig, the craft service table, and rehearsals with the dart gun. These 480i mini-features were prepared as promotions for the film on the Fox Movie Channel.
There are trailers for I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, Whip It, (500) Days of Summer, and Fame.
2.5/5 (not an average)
If you’re looking for the singularly odd and self-consciously idiosyncratic, Gentlemen Broncos might be right up your alley. Fans of Napoleon Dynamite will likely find this new tale by the same hands less appealing, but there are enough strange one-offs to insure a few chuckles from a rental.