'Gentlemen Broncos': what's the right grade for a wrong-headed movie?
I really didn’t like Gentlemen Broncos, the newest movie from Jared and Jerusha Hess, who made Napoleon Dynamite. (Here’s my review.) The problem, I think, is that the movie — about a nerdy teenage writer of bad sci-fi who discovers his work has been plagiarized by other dorks — can’t distinguish junky kitsch from quality kitsch. (That’s Sam Rockwell, above, playing a lame sci-fi hero.) And I’m exasperated by the filmmakers’ insistence that everyone and everything can be cute, if you squint with the right kind of tolerance. Whereas, the way I squint, not everything and everyone is cute by a long shot, not even subjectively. I’m not a fan of Napoleon Dynamite either, although I know millions are — including, maybe, you?
Still, when my editor asked me what grade I planned to give Gentlemen Broncos — would I give it a straight F? — I said no, Gentlemen Broncos gets a D–, and my editor said, why?, and I said it’s because I reserve straight Fs for movies that I think aren’t just bad and badly made, but also reprehensible. Aggressively awful. Maybe even without any redeeming merit. IMHO, of course. Gentlemen Broncos is just…gently awful. IMHO, of course.
I mean, you and I both know that grades are kind of dumb. So are stars and thumbs that are waggled up and down, yea or nay. Such rough calculations say nothing insightful about the movies under review; they’re just a shorthand guide to what one critic thinks is good or bad or somewhere in between, an invitation to read more thoughtful analysis. Still, a D– isn’t an F, and an F isn’t a D–. And now you know my reasoning.
Agree? Disagree? I invite thoughtful analysis, accompanied by a thumb up or down.