Yes, this week I sat and watched Gentlemen Bronco’s, the latest film by Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre writer/director Jarod Hess. Did I enjoy it, yes I did.
To say the film is cut from the same cloth as Napoleon Dynamite is understating it somewhat. The scenery, clothing, music (80’s predominantly, including an expertly deployed Cher song.) and even the title sequence, draws heavily from Jarod’s previous work.
The films protagonists also come from the same pool of oddball small town characters as before but instead of being called Napoleon, the main lonely, socially awkward, nerdy outsider is called Benjamin, and he has a penchant for writing Sci-Fi novels.
Benjamin is sent off to a writing camp by his mother (an amateur clothes designer who also bizarrely models things from popcorn) in the hope of him getting some attention for his sci-fi stories.
In doing so he ends up entering his novella ‘Yeastlords’ into a writing competition judged by his hero, the pompous, self aggrandising, windbag sci-fi writer Ronald Chevalier (inspiringly played for all the comic gold its worth by Flight of the Conchords star Jemaine Clement) and also meets a worryingly odd couple of amateur film makers.
The main plot of the movie deals with Benjamin’s struggles to stop his story being exploited by the fading talent of Chevalier and the questionable talent of the creepy filmmaker Lonnie Donaho, but running parallel to this plotline we also get the story of Yeastlords played out in the form of a hilariously cheesy sci-fi parody, full of jaw droppingly bad special effects and a great performance from Sam Rockwell as the hero Bronco.
The movie was so badly mauled by critics that it never actually made the cinema, and I can see why it wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you go in with an open mind and are prepared to cope with the relentlessly offbeat characters and the Buck Rogers style camp sci-fi sequences, you will be rewarded with some damnably good (if occasionally juvenile) laughs and an interesting piece of dialogue about why a Troll mother would never name her child Teacup.
A lot of the criticism levelled at the film seems to focus on how disdainfully Jarod treats his characters. I didn’t get this from the film at all, for me he seemed to be celebrating the strangeness and awkwardness of the people involved, rather than mocking them for it.
This could have been because Benjamin actually reminded me of myself when I was an adolescent, granted I didn’t shoot a homemade blowpipe dart dipped in rat poison and human faeces into one of my Mothers breast pads but it’s something that wouldn’t have been quite beyond me at that time.
Growing up wasn’t like Dawsons OC One Tree Hill Skins tediously self obsessed shallow creek for me. I was awkward, had a ridiculous afro, a subscription to White Dwarf magazine and an unhealthy obsession with Terry Pratchett fantasy novels.
Instead of indulging in sex, drugs and boozing, I spent my evenings, paintbrush in hand, hunched over an Orc miniature, experimenting with ways to make its armour look convincingly battle scarred.
Jarrod seems to have gone through similar rites of passage and the affection he shows Benjamin and the rest of the Bronco’s is strangely heart warming.
So if you fancy a slight, admittedly flawed, but entertaining and oddly touching comedy peppered with moments of surreal genius give it a go. Here’s a taster;
Be warned though there is an un-needed scene featuring a flatulent snake which you may want to avoid.