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Balls of Confusion 

Too much juvenile humor ruins Gentlemen Broncos

After the unlikely stratospheric success of 2004's Napoleon Dynamite, director Jared Hess hit the mat hard with wrestling spoof Nacho Libre in 2006. Gentlemen Broncos, his latest uneven offering (co-written, like the other two films, with wife Jerusha), is evidence that Hess may have peaked at 30. The film is a protracted and only intermittently funny testicle joke, with enough flavor for fans to savor and enough tasteless gristle for critics to choke on.

In a dumpy western town, a milquetoast teen named Benji Purvis (Michael Angarano) scribbles a notebook tome called Yeast Lords, an overheated Freudian adolescent fantasia about hyper-macho killer stags and scarf-wearing Cyclops warriors who have stolen his gonads.

It earns him a trip to a writer's workshop, where he falls for temptress Tabatha (Halley Feiffer), whose ruby-cheeked wholesomeness hides something faintly dirty. Benji also meets his idol, Ronald Chevalier (The Flight of the Conchords' Jemaine Clement), a pretentious sci-fi novelist. Clement's a blast, in puffy 1980s leather and turquoise; his pompous, Cambridge-schooled parlance makes him sound like the love child of Michael York and James Mason. His scenes at the writer's retreat are a high point, tweaking the nerdy world of fantasy novels, including a hilarious debate about the protocols of naming a troll. Facing writer's bock, Chevalier steals Benji's Yeast Lords and bastardizes it into a bestseller. At the same time, Benji sells the movie rights to a zero-budget producer, and a collision course is set.

We see each author's visions of the story in segments starring Sam Rockwell as Bronco — first as a macho mountain-man riding a flying, missile-launching buck, and then as an albino in a pink cape spewing vomit like a cannon. On paper it sounds brilliant, but on the screen it often falls flat — the deadpan gets deadly and the laughs are drowned in grossness or arbitrary weirdness.

film@clevescene.com

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