Gentlemen Broncos Reviews
So why can't Hess recapture the same quirky charm of Napoleon Dynamite? Perhaps its the lack of likeability and fun that made Hess' debut film so memorable: outside of our protagonist Benjamin Purvis, nobody here is remotely likeable, whereas most everyone in Napoleon Dynamite was oddly loveable. Of course, this is a story that's largely centered around unlikeable characters, but it creates so many moments that are largely unfunny. Hess decides to focus on reactionary gags, and downright childish butt/fart humor, over the deadbeat humor of Napoleon Dynamite, and it simply isn't nearly as effective. Not helping matters are scenes that turn Purvis' writing into live action affairs, which are painfully corny, without any sense of intentional humor that Hess may be trying to convey here.
Sam Rockwell plays the lead in these segments, and he's as delightfully charming, and absolutely bonkers, as he always is: unfortunately, that's more a testament to Rockwell than to the film. With that said, none of the performances here are outright bad: in fact, most everyone does quite well for a cast of actors stuck with such dismal characters. Michael Angarano is quite charming as Benjamin, enough so to where you really want him to succeed. Jermaine Clement (and his heavenly voice) makes for an amusing "antagonist", and Mike White is the closest thing to a deadpan Jared Hess character here, which is nice. Halley Feiffer and Héctor Jiménez (who reteams with Hess after Nacho Libre) aren't bad, but their shtick rarely works.
It's nice of Hess to attempt to rekindle the fire that essentially created his career, but unfortunately, that's all it is: an attempt. And sadly, it's not a great one. Hess has mostly failed to prove why his sense of humor works twice now: hopefully he can find his footing, because he's in a bit of a low spot right now.