After watching Gentlemen Broncos, I felt like hero Benjamin about two-thirds of the way through as he stumbles out of a screening for the amateur production of his book, Yeast Lords, and vomits into a trash can. Benjamin submitted the book some time earlier at a writing camp to gain the attention of his literary hero, science fiction auteur Doctor Chevalier (Jemaine Clement), who, short a hit novel, steals Benjamin’s work and is now making millions through plagiarism. Throughout the film, Benjamin, trying to be a nice guy, gets walked over as others take advantage of him. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to tell you that this film has taken advantage of me in my humble attempt to give the Hess’s a rebound shot. They completely failed. Now it’s 4AM and I have to deliver a receipt of the time I wasted.
I was this close to seeing this film in theaters because the trailer had sold me. In it, we see Benjamin’s brilliant work being taken advantage of cut between dolled up shots of Sam Rockwell in a bizarre science-fiction film. Gentlemen Broncos released, critics hated it, and the movie bombed. After I’d gotten mixed results from Jared and Jerusha Hess’ Napoleon Dynamite TV series (they gave us the original film as well as Nacho Libre), I trekked out to the wilds of Amazon(.com) and decided to give the film a shot. I was a fan of ‘Dynamite’s slow-paced humor, cast of average humans, and desolate setting (they trade Idaho for snowy Utah this time around), so this seemed right up my alley.
For a film made by a bunch of Mormons, who comprise some of the most conservative people I know, I’m not sure who was supposed to see this film. There’s far too many references to genitals to fly into the kids’ radar like Dynamite did and the film’s child-like imagination is simply too bizarre for most adults I know. Whether the film is trying to tell the story of Yeast Lords, or the licensed production of Yeast Lords as an amateur film, or the plagiarized version of Yeast Lords by Bluetooth headset-equipped Chevalier (which isn’t to mention the sluggish events happening top-side in the ‘real world’ that these characters inhabit), Gentlemen Broncos is self-indulgent. The film’s 89-minute run time feels like unending hours of jokes that fail to punch and unfunny ideas that fail to conclude, ever. If they’d hired an editor at some point to trim the fat, this probably would’ve been a half-hour TV special.
The film’s not a complete mess. Jemaine Clement almost wins as best performance, but his pretentious whiskey-like Alan Rickman impression gets old incredibly fast. Benjamin’s mother runs a clothing store and produces dresses from drawings that appear to have been crafted by six year old girls with a box of markers. The opening title cards are presented as fantastic book covers for what look like genuine dollar store 60s-era science fiction novels. Gentlemen Broncos embraces the pre-Star Wars look of science fiction from when it was slow and unapproachable with ships and uniforms based on circles and autumnal color schemes.
But the rest of the film is completely garbage. You wait for days as the film reaches its inevitable cheerful conclusion and you rejoice at the sweet release. If you haven’t seen this film, keep it that way.