Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Auteur Watch - Jared and Jerusha Hess

How far we've come from the days of the Hessian mercenary. Now it's all nerd chic everywhere. Consider the case of Jared and Jerusha Hess, and their muse Jon Heder. It all started with a short film... doesn't it always? In this case, a film called... Peluca? Gotta look it up... Peluca. Not to be confused with De Luca. As you can see from Peluca's plot description, it's Napoleon Dynamite in miniature, after which came the full-length Napoleon Dynamite. Kind of a Paper Moon for the Idaho set, MTV shepherded it to national, possibly international prominence. And more importantly, Heder was immediately launched into stardom, soon finding himself working with Billy Bob Thornton and Will Ferrell... not on the same film, though. As for the Hesses, they managed to get over their sophomore slump with Nacho Libre, a little something they've been working on ever since Napoleon Dynamite became a hit. Either that, or their agent was probably with them at some Mexican restaurant, talking to them about a nice easy gig working on that Cuba Libre rewrite. Needles to say, two and two surely added together on that one, and it did rather well at the box office. N.Lib probably didn't recoup its advertising costs the first week, but it still did quite well. They were also lucky to catch Jack Black just before his star started falling back to earth.
Following their sophomore slump was surely what can be called nothing but a junior slump with Gentlemen Broncos. Critics hated it, the moviegoing public turned up their noses to it... WHAT DO YOU CRUEL BASTARDS WANT?! THIS IS WHAT THEY DO! You call the Hesses and ask them to write and direct a movie, an exposé of nerd culture is what you're going to get! That it's a bit of an homage to the likes of Big Fat Liar is beside the point. I guess their core audience was shocked that the Hesses have already gone Hollywood and made a PG-13 pic, straying out of their audiences' PG comfort zone, clearly.
So, let's talk decades. One would think that the 2000s were a great decade for Jared and Jerusha Hess... but frankly, I don't think the 2000s were a great decade for anybody. The Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina... maybe just Halliburton. The Hesses had to spend most of that decade losing fingernails as they tried crawling their way to the top. Fortunately for them, they managed to get brand recognition, and after the critical and popular drubbing of Gentlemen Broncos, it's already time to go back and revisit the triumph of 2004 that was theirs. Time to do a Napoleon Dynamite television show. And even though Jon Heder is pushing 35, based on his birthdate info on his IMDb page, he knows that some people can play the nerdy teenager forever. Screw the wise old grandpa roles. This isn't Cocoon we're talking about here! It's N.D. for God's sake! But my crystal ball tells me that playing Rod Blagojevich in an HBO movie could be in his future... That Haylie Duff's returning to reprise her role, well... that reflects poorly on all of us somehow. But work is work. We're a long way from the classic era of television when such a demotion was frowned upon. Back then, it would be unheard of for Steve Martin to return to do The Jerk, Too, for example. Note to Tina Fey's agent: idea for The Jerk, Three starring Steve Martin as an aged Navin Johnson, with Alec Baldwin and most of the rest of the cast of 30 Rock... maybe Parks and Recreation. P&R's a better show in some ways... I said SOME ways! I gotta go. I gotta try to stop digging my own grave so fast.

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