‘The Bronze’ Review: A Feel Good Festival of F-Bombs

'The Bronze'

Movie Rating:


The 1990s were filled with ‘Saturday Night Live’ spinoff movies or projects like ‘The Jerky Boys’ that took characters who were funny in small doses and needlessly stretched them out to feature length expansion. ‘The Bronze’ feels just like one of those movies, except that the character at the center never existed before.

Nonetheless, it’s clear that writer/star Melissa Rauch (‘The Big Bang Theory’) came up with a funny one-note character and then skipped the sketch or internet video stage and just gave her a movie that can’t be sustained. It’s funny at times and the character has potential, but it’s frustrating to watch all the clichés stretch past their breaking points over a thoroughly unnecessary 108 minutes.

The character in question is Hope. She was a pint-sized gymnastics star who captured America’s heart by winning a Bronze medal at the Olympics and has accomplished precisely nothing since. She still wanders around her hometown wearing her old stars ‘n stripes jumpsuit, getting free goods from various local establishments, and swearing like a sailor in a squeaky voice at anyone who will listen. Her father (Gary Cole) has been enabling her all these years because he’s so weak that his best friend is a goldfish. (Oh so quirky!)

Thankfully, Hope has a chance at redemption when her former coach dies and she’s offered the opportunity to train a young girl (Haley Lu Richardson) for Olympic contention. At first, Hope tries to torpedo the girl’s chances out of jealousy. Gradually, however, she’s gets into the whole power trip of coaching, sees an opportunity to beat an old rival (Sebastian Stan), gets a gym partner/geeky love interest (Thomas Middleditch), and just might have a shot at personal improvement. Hmmm… I wonder if dreams can come true or lightening can strike twice?!

It’s impossible to watch ‘The Bronze’ without thinking of Jody Hill and Danny McBride’s brilliant HBO series ‘Eastbound & Down’. The stories are similar to the point of plagiarism, following a foul-mouthed burnout of a former athlete on the path to redemption. However, the genius of ‘Eastbound’ was the way the show’s creators refused to allow actual redemptive arcs to enter their sphere unless they were heavily ironic or occurred entirely in the lead character’s head. ‘The Bronze’ isn’t nearly clever or daring enough for such things. Once the amusing protagonist is established, the rest of the script unfolds by slipping peg A into slot B according to the most obvious screenwriting conventions, and that gets very tedious very quickly.

On top of that Robert McKee/Hollywood comedy formula, the filmmakers double down on Sundance quirk with the oppressively bright cinematography and cheeky junk store production design. In fact, if you’ve been watching comedies with any regularity over the last decade, you don’t really need to see ‘The Bronze’. You’ve already seen everything elsewhere.

That said, as tired and tedious as the film can feel, it’s not all bad. Melissa Rauch’s tiny ball of arrogance and rage scores some big laughs in the early going. Before it becomes clear that her character only has the one note, she’s kind of fun. Gary Cole is just delightful to see in anything, even a thankless a role like this. Thomas Middleditch from ‘Silicon Valley’ has such natural geeky charm that he almost makes a character who has a facial tick purely for cheap laughs work. Haley Lu Richardson’s dorky energy is infectious. The cast is good, better than the script even, and Super Bowl commercial directing veteran Bryan Buckley puts every single dollar of the meager budget up on the screen with some pretty visuals.

‘The Bronze’ is no disaster. It actually has quite a bit to enjoy. The trouble is that it goes south and takes too long to get there. The flick clocks in at nearly two hours, which is a bit much for any comedy. The fact that it’s a comedy that completely runs out of ideas around the hour mark makes things extra rough. If the filmmakers could have found a way to chop this down to 80 minutes it would have been more palatable. If it had been 80 minutes with a less predictable final third, it might even have been a pleasant surprise. Unfortunately, half of ‘The Bronze’ is a decent filthy comedy and the other half is a painfully formulaic sports movie running on steam. That’s a shame. The next time Melissa Rauch invents a character, she should really consider hiring some writers.


  1. EM

    Thanks for posting this. Earlier I was trying to remember the name of the nightclub in early seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and this article reminded me.

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