By Peter Hall (reprinted from 9/28/09 -- Fantastic Fest review)
Quirkiness only carries so far. Napoleon Dynamite, the film that ushered in the career of Gentlemen Broncos director Jared Hess, is enjoyable because it cherishes the nervous twitches of puberty, identity crisis, and the weird kind of people who worship at Walmart strip malls. The director embraced his small-town roots to assemble a film in love with those who don't have any station in life, who have no big conflict in their mundane lives, and who have no particularly interesting story to tell, either. Hess' latest film, on the other hand, does have an interesting story to tell and it does have a three-act conventional conflict, but it barrels past being quirky into the weird-for-weird's-sake hinterland of comedy where subtlety is abolished in favor of broad, hit-and-miss gags.
Gentlemen Broncos could have been great. It's about a teenage boy (Michael Angarano) whose fantasy novel featuring an underdog hero on a nonsensical planet (Sam Rockwell) is stolen by not only his washed-up hero author (Jemaine Clement) at a crash-course writing camp, but two insufferable "friends" who want to turn the story into their cinematic gateway to Hollywood. The film often wanders out of the real-world of poor Benjamin's unenviable life and into the entertaining fantasy world of his childish writings, but for the most part it feels as directionless as the confused boy we're supposed to be rooting for.