On this blog, I have a regular conversation about directors who I feel are in the contention for the greatest of all time. Names that pop up on that list regularly include Woody Allen, David Lynch, Federico Fellini, Quentin Tarantino, and Stanley Kubrick. A conversation that doesn’t happen very often (and shouldn’t based on how I choose most of the movies I watch for these blogs which are nominated for major industry awards) is a conversation about who I feel should be considered the worst directors of all time. Uwe Boll wins the competition pretty handily for the 2000’s, as he is seemingly incapable of making a film that isn’t absolutely atrocious. Other nominees could be Brett Ratner, Joel Schumacher, and any given Wayans brother when they are behind the camera. I just finished 2009’s Gentleman Broncos, the most recent film of Napoleon Dynamite creator, Jared Hess, and this film along with the aforementioned cult hit which still stands to me as one of the most over-rated films of the decade, cements my suspicions that Jared Hess should make the list of worst film-makers of the 2000’s.

Gentlemen Broncos stars Michael Angarano as Benjamin Purvis, a quiet and nerdy home-schooled teenager who aspires to be a famous science fiction writer like his hero, Ronald Chevalier (Flight of the Conchords‘ Jemaine Clement). Benjamin attends a sci-fi writers conference where he gets to meet his hero Ronald, and Benjamin submits one of his novellas in a competition to be a published author. However, Ronald, who is running out of ideas and about to be let go by his publisher, decides to steal Benjamin’s work and pass it off as his own. Along the way, we meet Benjamin’s mother played by Jennifer Coolidge, a widow trying to realize her dreams as a fashion designer, as well as Benjamin’s friends Tabatha and Lonnie who are trying to make Benjamin’s story into an independently produced film.

Much like Napoleon Dynamite, Jared Hess foregoes a traditional joke/gag comedic structure in Gentlemen Broncos, and instead tries to wrest humor from the situational comedy and the awkwardness of the characters and the surroundings. Alas, much like in Napoleon Dynamite, these characters aren’t funny because they’re awkward, like say the cast of Freaks and Geeks, and instead are just awkward and terribly painful to watch. The film tries to straddle this fine line between so terrible, it’s funny, but more often than not it lands on the so terrible, it’s bad side of that equation. The only moments in which the film was able to elicit any humorous response from me were during the imaginary fantasy sequences where Ben would see a cheesy sci-fi movie version of his book which was so over-the-top in the way it lampooned old sci-fi movies that I actually had a good laugh at the satire. Unfortunately, every scene that occurred in the real world of the film was completely devoid of any humor or intelligence.

The film only had two redeeming qualities. The first was the presence of Jemaine Clement whose very existence gave the film the only life it really had. He’s such a strange and enigmatic individual that just watching him play any character makes a film at least tolerable (except not this time). His accent which was like a strange cross-breed between Orson Welles and Peter Lorre was good for a laugh or two. Second, the soundtrack was pretty good, and I wouldn’t mind owning it. Other than that, this film was complete and utter garbage and I can’t recommend it to anyone. I feel pretty much the exact same way about Napoleon Dynamite, so apparently I just don’t get Jared Hess’ brand of humor, except I know what he’s attempting to do. I just don’t think it’s funny. The only people I can recommend this film to are fans of his previous work, and I will never understand those people.

Final Score: D+