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‘The Bronze’: a study in raunchy laughter

If you haven't yet seen the comedy "The Bronze," you might want to read my review to know just what you're getting into. Following is the review that I wrote for Spokane Public Radio:

It’s hard to find anyone who admits being a fan of the network sitcom “The Big Bang Theory.” It’s far easier, in fact, to find savage commentaries about the long-running series. Yet that show has been one of CBS’s leading ratings-earners since its debut in 2007, so somebody is watching it.

In 2009, the actress Melissa Rauch joined the cast, mostly as a romantic interest for the character played by Simon Helberg. Over the years, though, even as a supporting player, Rauch has proved to be one of the show’s more dependable comic presences.

Which is part of what makes “The Bronze” – a movie that Rauch co-wrote with her husband Winston – such a surprise. The character that Rauch plays in the film is nothing like the sweet and common-sensical character she plays on “The Big Bang Theory.”

In “The Bronze,” she plays Hope Ann Greggory, the home-town sweetheart of Amherst, Ohio, who owes her celebrity to a brave showing in the 2008 Olympics, in which – despite an ankle injury – she performed a Kerri Strug-like dismount to win a Bronze medal.

But Hope is no ordinary hero. Or, save for her past athletic achievements, no hero at all. Profane, selfish and perpetually adolescent, Hope is stuck. She’s like the once-talented toddler who never grew up yet still coasts on the cuteness of her younger self. Hope lives with her father (played by Gary Cole), still wears her Olympics warm-ups, demands (and mostly receives) freebies all over town – and what she can’t get free, she feels free to steal.

Enter Maggie (played by Haley Lu Richardson), the new girl with talent enough to make everyone forget that Hope ever existed. Even worse, Maggie is being trained by the same heavily-accented, Bela Karolyi-like coach who once had worked with Hope, before the two had a falling out.

The narrative arc of “The Bronze” has Hope being presented with the opportunity to coach Maggie, which she does at first with reluctance – even with a promised monetary reward – but then with purpose.

This, then, would seem to be a standard story, especially when the screenwriting Rauches introduce “Silicon Valley” star Thomas Middleditch as an unlikely, if good-natured, love interest. But a couple of things set “The Bronze” apart. One is the succession of lewd jokes, most either voiced by Hope or made at her expense and most of which use the f-word more often than a Tarantino film.

The second is the direction by first-time feature filmmaker Bryan Buckley, an award-winning commercial filmmaker who shows enough talent to make his a name to note.

Neither of these qualities is enough to make “The Bronze” much more than an average laugh-fest, as long as you find humor in rampant raunch and one of the more athletic and R-rated love scenes ever put on a mainstream movie screen.

But Cole is a dependable comedy-drama presence, Middleditch gives new meaning to the term “Twitchy” and Rauch shows that when “The Big Bang Theory” finally runs its course, she might be the one cast member with a movie future.

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