Magazine article Variety

Pic's Comic Gymnastics Fall Short

Magazine article Variety

Pic's Comic Gymnastics Fall Short

Article excerpt

Pic's Comic Gymnastics Fall Short

In the cranky, foul-mouthed tradition of bad grandpas, bad teachers, bad Santas and so forth, "The Bronze" unveils yet another vinegar-spirited comedic antihero: the bad sport. Catapulting herself into the public eye, "The Big Bang Theory's" Melissa Rauch stars as Hope Ann Greggory, an Olympic has-been who's ridden the celebrity of her third-place gymnastics medal about as far as it will take her. While commercial enough to go the distance (the film was acquired at Sundance by Relativity Media), Rauch's caustic character sketch feels over-stretched, landing easy laughs with the same joke: a twisted take on the sort of America's sweetheart even Tonya Harding couldn't tarnish.

A true gymnast would appreciate the virtually impossible balancing act of trying to make audiences like a character as unrepentantly self-absorbed as Hope, a pony-tailed blonde brat whom we meet masturbating to a tape of her 2004 Olympics win - in which she snatched the bronze medal from the brink of a career-ending ankle injury. To put it bluntly, Hope is "a spoiled bitch," as it takes her impossibly patient single father (Gary Cole) nearly the entire movie to tell her. She needs a serious attitude adjustment, and if there's one thing we've learned from such films, warm-fuzzy redemption is on its way.

Tipping its hand a bit too early, the script (which Rauch penned with husband Winston) indicates exactly how things will go when Hope receives a postsuicidal letter from Coach P. (Christine E. Abraham), the staunch Russian supervisor who boosted her to victory a dozen years earlier. In broken English, the old battle ax dangles a $500,000 reward if her former student agrees to carry on and coach 16-year-old Maggie Townsend (Haley Lu Richardson), whom the gymnastics community considers America's next great hope.

Naturally, Hope despises the idea that someone from her own hometown - folksy Amherst, Ohio, where the film was actually shot - might steal her glory. So Hope instructs Maggie to spend her workout sessions "visualizing" her maneuvers (instead of actually practicing them); practically pimps her out to the nearest horny teenager she can find; and takes her around to the unhealthiest junk-food establishments in town until the poor girl develops a beer gut.

While Hope cruelly sets about trying to sabotage the absurdly compliant young athlete's chances, two guys appear on the scene with other plans. …

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