The style that was so fresh, funny and enjoyable in 2004’s "Napoleon Dynamite" has become stale, predictable and merely amusing in this year’s "Gentlemen Broncos." Writers Jared and Jerusha Hess returned to their home of Utah for the setting of their third film, recycling their kitschy, eccentric characters and awkward, squeaky-clean comedy in hopes of recreating their first film’s magic. While the plot is somewhat compelling and the characters are loveable, the film devotes too much time to the "Yeast Lords" side-story and not enough time the main character, Benjamin Purvis.
Benjamin Purvis (Michael Angarano) is a gullible, homeschooled 16-year-old introvert who has a passion for writing sci-fi. Benjamin appears to be the only sane, reasonable person in a cast of badly dressed misfits.
His loopy mother (Jennifer Coolidge, "Best In Show") owns a company called "Decent Beginnings" that sells hideous nightgowns for $100 a pop. Gown names include "Reachable Dream," "Front Pew" and "Righteous Do." This type of role is Coolidge’s bread and butter. She plays the role of clueless-but-concerned mom to a tee, at one point shoving a popcorn car through prison bars to her son on his birthday.
Starring: Michael Angarano, Jennifer Coolidge, Jemaine Clement, Sam Rockwell
Seen at: Loews Boston Common
Benjamin is a reluctant friend with the immensely annoying Tabitha (Halley Feiffer) and Lonnie (Hector Jimenez), two other homeschoolers who run a small amateur adult film company. They eventually dupe Benjamin into giving them his original manuscript, "Yeast Lords," to make into a movie. The Hess’s went a little overboard with these guys, their unforgivable weirdness making each scene with them in it seem endless and inescapable instead of funny. Tabitha’s oddness would be more acceptable if she showed some redeeming quality like humor or integrity. Lonnie is just flat-out irritating.
But Tabitha and Lonnie aren’t the only ones who swindle Benjamin. His literary idol, Dr. Ronald Chevalier (Jemaine Clement, "Flight of the Conchords") swipes his manuscript from a contest and pawns it off as his own. Clement does a remarkable job in hilariously depicting the arrogant British author. He provides most of the comic relief in Benjamin’s sad story, delivering lines like, "Do you think they’ll remember us for our writing? No! They’ll remember us for our wealth!"
Angarano’s Benjamin is delightfully awkward, from his cracking pubescent voice to his feet curled insecurely beneath his desk. The audience feels for him as he gets walked all over and roots for him when he finally stands up for himself. The only downside is that by the time he does so, the film is over.
There are few people who could have wanted to like this movie more than myself. Alas, I won’t be quoting it for years to come as I’d hoped. It’s worth seeing for its individual comedic performances, but bring something to do when Clement, Coolidge and Angarano aren’t on the screen.