I watched ‘Gentlemen Broncos’ again, a very stylized, specific to environment (heavy art direction) type comedy – like the work of Wes Anderson. I wondered, “Why is this not working; why am I not laughing?” Then it dawned on me, the protagonist is the most uninteresting character in this movie.
Unlike the main character in ‘Napoleon Dynamite’, or the protagonist in Anderson’s successful films, the development of the kid is not interesting enough. The lead in one of these ‘odd setting’ comedies has to be as fully-formed and layered as all the weirdos around them, otherwise, you don’t care about the lead and want the movie to be about a supporting character.
Unlike comedies set in what would be considered a ‘normal setting’ (Old School, Something About Mary, Baby Mama) ‘odd setting’ movies must have a complex & flawed protagonist proportional to the surrounding setting and characters.
The straight guy can lead in ‘Old School’ with Will Ferrell bouncing around but not ‘Rushmore’. That setting has to have the developed personality of a Max Fischer working the levers and personalities to keep you interested and laughing.