Gentlemen Broncos, you really are no Napoleon Dynamite

Sam Leon

Jared and Jerusha Hess, the team that brought us Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre, are back with another quirky comedy. This one, however, is sans the lovable characters and dry humor that won our hearts over five years ago with Napoleon Dynamite.

Benjamin Purvis, the protagonist in Gentlemen Broncos, is a home-schooled 17-year-old raised in Utah by his mother. When Benjamin finds out his idol, sci-fi legend Dr. Ronald Chevalier, will be teaching a writers camp, he packs up his best manuscript, Yeast Lords: The Bronco Years, and sets out to fulfill his dream.

On the bus, Benjamin, who has no friends, begins socializing with two other misfits—Tabatha and Lonnie. Both are very weird, and neither treats Benjamin very well. Instead of being likable, they quickly become annoying.

Once at camp, Benjamin attends the speech given by Dr. Ronald Chevalier, ingeniously played by Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords), who is the highlight of the film with his perfectly deadpan performance. Chevalier views his students as untalented and often scoffs at their amateurism. His serious, self-important delivery is hilarious in itself. Combine that with some wacky lecture of how to create sci-fi character names, and you get the most hilarious moments of the film.

Unfortunately, we are abruptly taken away from the comical camp scenes and are instead transported back to Benjamin’s boring life in Utah.

A fundamental problem of Gentlemen Broncos lies in Benjamin not being a character the audience roots for. I think part of this results from Benjamin being such a pushover. Benjamin is a pretty pathetic person who shows little emotion, and he doesn’t provide any laughs either.

Throughout the film, entire sequences from Benjamin’s book are played out onscreen. These scenes do nothing to progress the film forward and fail to provide either humor or excitement. Moreover, they are completely and utterly disturbing. Once again, it’s hard to root for, or even like, a protagonist who writes such unsettling stories.

It was really disappointing to see the amount of gross-out moments Gentlemen Broncos had. In one scene, instead of capitalizing on the talented Mike White’s dry humor, we see a snake defecate all over him.

Another time we see Benjamin vomit in a trashcan before starting a conversation with Tabatha while chunks of vomit are still on his face. They then proceed to make out.

Both scenes succeed in being excessively gross, but neither is the slightest bit funny.

The most interesting character in the film is by far Dr. Ronald Chevalier, who constantly wears a Bluetooth headset he never uses. Though he is presented as the film’s antagonist, I would not have minded if the entire movie was about him. At the very least, he could have been incorporated in more screen time.

Though Chevalier is Gentlemen Bronco’s saving grace, even he couldn’t save a script that had so many inherent flaws.
It’s always a shame to see a brilliant performance, talented cast, or gifted set of writers go to waste. Sadly, this film wasted all three.