FILM FAVE/FAIL OF THE WEEK: Jared Hess/The Proposal

Written by Mckay Stevens on . Posted in Film

This week’s film fave is a more local name: Jared Hess (and his wife, Jerusha.)

With only three major films on his resume, Jared Hess has already become a well-known writer/director, his wife faithfully at his side. His history is as brief as his resume, but what it lacks in quantity is surely compensated in quality.

Hess’ short film Peluca (the original Napoleon Dynamite), made as a film student at BYU, played at the Slamdance Festival and then at Sundance. During those festivals, it was noticed by MTV Films and Fox Searchlight, who paid $400,000 to remake the nine-minute film into a full-length feature. The finished produce brought about unprecedented results, grossing an estimated $44.5 million domestically — over 100 times its production cost.

Following Napoleon, the Hess duo teamed up with Mike White (School of Rock) to bring forth another chapter in the quirky character saga: Nacho Libre. If you are like me, you like Jack Black. Not necessarily for his epic performances, but because he is so much like someone you know that is hilarious and, for that reason, you are forgiving of his character weaknesses (i.e. when he randomly stops using an accent for awhile or butchers the accent completely.) Black makes for a very funny Ignacio, or Nacho, a kitchen boy at a Mexican mission who sinfully dreams of Lucha Libre. He also falls for the newest nun, Encarnacion, a temptation he weakly resists.

Nacho Libre maintains the Hess style, but separates itself completely from Napoleon Dynamite. Although hilarious, Napoleon lacked a real plot and was more of a documentation of the misadventures of a nerdy teen from a rural town. Nacho holds a more traditional structure, thus giving us a real protagonist to root for. It’s also a combination of two things that are naturally funny without the necessity of exaggerating them any more than they already are: Jack Black and Lucha Libre wrestling.

Hess’ third major production is called Gentlemen Broncos. The film still has no release date and is officially labeled as being in post-production. The film stars Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords), Sam Rockwell (Moon) and Michael Angarano.

Angarano plays a young man who dreams of becoming a science fiction writer. He attends a writing camp where he learns that the author leading the camp, Ronald Chevalier (Clement) has stolen his story. Sam Rockwell plays the lead character of their story who comes to life during the film.

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Starting this week, I will also add a Film FAIL of the Week. This week’s fail is The Proposal, starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds. I decided this movie did not merit a full review and will, therefore, only briefly offer my opinion.

As I expected, The Proposal embraces every last chick flick cliché known to man. A fake relationship becomes real, then feelings get hurt, the girl runs, the guy chases and, when he catches up to her, there’s a sweet no-holds-barred, heart-on-your-sleeve confession in front of an awful set of extras who look more like elementary school stage performers than aspiring film actors.

But as I said, I expected that. The one redeeming quality about this film was how well the lead roles were cast. The parents, the grandma, and the leading man and lady. They had great on-screen chemistry and there were several moments where I was actually laughing out loud — something I don’t normally do while watching chick flicks.

However, anything entertaining or humorous about the movie completely evaporated for me when the two leads spent nearly ten minutes completely naked on screen. It seemed like a sell-out move by the actors to try and get some publicity, and by the writers because the movie was already funny. I found it cheap, disgusting and tasteless. I’m embarrassed to say that I saw the movie and hope that, by telling you about it, you won’t make the same mistake.

0.5 out of 5 stars.

Sidenote: Ramon wasn’t funny. No matter how you look at it, he wasn’t funny. I saw what they were trying to do with his character (i.e. every Adam Sandler movie — watch the same secondary actors make the same lame jokes), but it was just off. There’s weird-funny and weird-weird. He was definitely the latter.

Mckay Stevens is a film correspondent for Rhombus. You can follow him on Twitter @s_mckay.

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