Massawyrm admonishes the bully porn that is GENTLEMEN BRONCOS!!
Published at: Oct. 29, 2009, 9:55 a.m. CST by merrick
Hola all. Massawyrm here.
If you’re going to make a movie within a movie that is supposed to be utterly ridiculous satire – and never for a moment what anyone would dare to call good - then it is of the utmost importance that this sequence not be more engaging than the movie surrounding it. In the case of GENTLEMEN BRONCOS it is. And no, that’s not meant to be a compliment. There is more wit and understanding of genre fiction to be found in Muse’s brilliant KNIGHTS OF CYDONIA music video than in the breadth and whole of this miserable turd which seems only to be a spoof on the very video. And while it is bad enough that this entire film is a slap in the face to genre fans everywhere, it has much lower to sink before it plumbs the bottom of the barrel.
Jared Hess doesn’t make comedies. He makes Bully Porn. His characters, devoid of any likable qualities whatsoever, serve only to mope around pathetically, dressed in the hand-me-down isn’t it ironic clothing of the late 1980’s, to be laughed at for how miserable, lowly and despicably uninteresting they are. By us. The bullies. You see, this is supposed to be funny. We’re supposed to giggle and chortle at the mom who wants nothing more from life than to make nightgowns for a living, or the indie-from-home filmmaker who grins like he’s had reconstructive facial surgery. That’s funny, right?
Yeah. Hilarious. And just wait until you get to the part where the diarrheic snake shits down the front of someone’s shirt. Magical.
The trouble with the comedy of this film is threefold. The first problem is that Hess makes this movie as if the internet never existed. That is to say that he thinks it’s funny to see actors dressed ironically while most people prefer to see it online when worn by someone who thinks they look good wearing it. Like many a joke that people laugh at when they hear it as truth, it’s only funny if it happened. Problem two is that Hess doesn’t put adult jokes in his movies. Instead he sticks to grade school humor that stops just sort of character’s uttering the phrase “Heh heh. You said BUTT.” The fact that this line was omitted here shocks me and I wouldn’t be surprised in the least to hear that it will turn up in a deleted scene on the DVD. Once you see the lead character selling popcorn balls in pairs in plastic bags, you’ll know what I mean.
Lastly, and worst of all, he is working in the field of satire here, but seems to have only a passing understanding of the genre he is mocking. This seems to be a classic case of parodying Sci-fi in defiance of Sturgeon’s Revelation –that sure, 90% of science fiction is crud, but 90% of everything is crud. Hess seems to weave together one of the very worst science fiction stories ever imagined while pretending that this is somehow indicative of sci-fi as well as what sci-fi fans want. The universe his characters exist in buys this as a brilliant work of fiction while we’re left to laugh at the mushroom farming transvestites who ride missile-launching woodland creatures. And while every bit of it is terrible, it is far and away better than watching Hess mock wimps, sycophants and unfulfilled single mothers.
There are a number of conventions that one could easily satirize in sci-fi; in fact it has long been a hobby of sci-fi fans to, you know, satirize them. So when someone like Hess comes along to make a few jokes, he comes across like the douchebag in ROXANNE who calls Steve Martin “bignose.” It elicits – especially in genre fans – an immediate “Really, that’s the best you could come up with?” response that is insulting on a number of levels, but mostly because he didn’t bother to put much thought into it. Really, Jared? Missile-launching deer and magic mushroom powers? While this is exactly the type of story one could see coming from a middle school writer, the idea that this is supposed to be some kind of genius hit becomes one of the more baffling points of the film. It seems to say “Look at the science fiction dorks. AREN’T THEY FUNNY?”
Hess even seems to loathe his own protagonist and delights in torturing him. When he finally gets around to bringing this pathetic story to its inevitable conclusion, he only seems to side with his hero because A) he has to and B) he hates the antagonist even more. The finale is so lazy and cheap, it only serves to punctuate the fact that the main character is never pro-active once in the entire film, except to throw a violent, childish tantrum. From a storytelling point of view, this has a lot in common with RUSHMORE and, in the hands of a competent filmmaker, could have been a sharp story of one-upmanship between an adult story-thief and the “helpless” kid who has to fight back any way he can. Lord knows he had the right cast to make that. But Jared Hess is no Wes Anderson and possesses neither the wit nor the understanding of his craft to create likable, complicated and still completely awkward characters.
Everyone here is simply awkward for the sake of being so, so you can sit back and laugh at people worse off than you. It’s bully porn, pure and simple; a feel good film for those that are happy only to not be as bad off as the guy on screen. To say that I hated this movie doesn’t go quite far enough. This film made me angry. It punished me for something I did in a past life that I don’t even fucking remember. Whatever it was, it was bad. Like John Wilkes Booth bad, if John Wilkes Booth had also groped Mrs. Lincoln before jumping down from the balcony and landing on a box of kittens. While I share no love for NAPOLEON DYNAMITE or NACHO LIBRE, they didn’t quite upset me the way that this did. It is lazy, sub-juvenile, and thoroughly uninteresting.
Unless you’re already on the Jared Hess bully bus, this sure as hell isn’t going to do anything for you and should be avoided at all costs.
Until next time friends, smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em.