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With: Michael Angarano, Jennifer Coolidge, Jemaine Clement, Mike White, Hector Jimenez, Halley Feiffer, Josh Pais, Edgar Oliver, Clive Revill, Sam Rockwell
Written by: Jared Hess, Jerusha Hess
Directed by: Jared Hess
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some crude humor
Running Time: 90
Date: 09/24/2009

Gentlemen Broncos (2009)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Sci-Fi School

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director and co-writer Jared Hess and his wife/writing partner Jerusha Hess return with their third feature after their smash indie cult hit Napoleon Dynamite (2004) and the less-beloved, but still successful mainstream hit Nacho Libre (2006).

Gentlemen Broncos continues with the couple's peculiar brand of humor, which borders on ridiculing their misfit heroes, and if you're a fan, there will be plenty of laughs here for you. The drawback is that there's too much plot and not enough of the free-wheeling, free-association of Napoleon Dynamite; some of the jokes seem shoehorned in rather than springing naturally from the characters.

On the plus side, the movie has "The Flight of the Conchords" star Jemaine Clement playing a smug, but burned out science fiction writer called "Ronald Chevalier," and he seems perfectly at home in this absurd universe. The movie's hero is Benjamin (Michael Angarano), a home-schooled teen who is also a burgeoning sci-fi writer. He lives with his widowed mom (Jennifer Coolidge) and dresses in his late father's clothes.

His mother sends him to a writer's camp, where he meets new friends Tabatah (Halley Feiffer) and Lonnie (Héctor Jiménez). He also submits his manuscript, an epic called Yeast Lords, to a contest to be judged by his hero, Chevalier. Lacking in new material, Chevalier senses the greatness of Yeast Lords and steals it for himself.

Meanwhile, Lonnie offers to make a low-budget film of the manuscript and Benjamin watches as he makes a royal hash out of it; we also see "footage" from the "real" Yeast Lords, played out as a slightly more expensive sci-fi epic starring Sam Rockwell as hero "Bronco."

Mike White co-stars as the long-haired "Dusty," who is meant to be a role model for Benjamin.

I laughed a lot at Gentlemen Broncos, but its funky, unique rhythms often give way to all too traditional story arcs, setups and payoffs. Napoleon Dynamite had a faint hint of life, but Gentlemen Broncos seems more indebted to other movies.

Blu-Ray Details: Fox's new Blu-Ray comes with a commentary track by director Jared Hess and his wife, co-writer/producer Jerusha. It's a bit low-key, and they seem shy, when in reality they can be hilariously funny. The other extras are better than usual. They include a unique, 15-minute making-of featurette, a series of funny mini-docs, some outtakes and about 15 minutes of deleted scenes. Picture/sound quality is excellent.

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