Movie Review: Walton Goggins pines for more pitchman laughs — “John Bronco Rides Again”

Walton Goggins and his unique brand of drawling, skinny redneck ornery is so in demand that he’s always got a couple of TV series going on while Hollywood tries to find a way to pair him and Tim Blake Nelson up in something Western — modern, with pick-up trucks, or vintage, with saddlebags.

But in between episodes of “The Righteous Gemstones” and “The Unicorn,” making a killer pilot for a TV version of James Ellroy’s “L.A. Confidential” (not picked up) and movies such as “Words on Bathroom Walls,” he squeezed out a goofy little one-joke short “John Bronco” for Hulu.

It was a vamp on ’70s TV, men with mustaches, the disco era dating ideal (Bo Derek) and a “legendary” pitchman who shared his rawhide-tough name with the pre-OJ SUV, the Ford Bronco.

And for a one-off, it was just funny enough to work, immersing us in how a guy famous for commercials in TV’s cheesiest era could make a big mark in show business.

I can’t say as much for the sequel, “John Bronco Rides Again,” premiering Sept. 13 on Hulu. They’ve ridden that one-trick pony lame, slurped that waterhole dry and what not. There’s barely a laugh in it.

The entire team concocting it is different. They don’t have Dennis Quaid narrating. And when you’re not so much scripting the zingers as relying on the funniest line on the set improvs to pay off, you’d better have funny actors and actresses on the payroll to help with the heavy lifting. Goggins is on his own.

This one is narrated by a John Bronco geek (Tim Baltz) who is a Ford Motor Co. archivist, host of the Broncast podcast, and man searching the country for the reclusive ex-pitchman so he can get him a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Leaving the voice-over narration to his character is a non-starter. Trying to wring laughs out of exposition is a blunder.

The Bronco “King of All Media” snippets packaged here include a 1960s Texas Exposition (not the World’s Fair) sketch for kids that went wrong, a Scooby-Doo knockoff kiddie cartoon — “John Bronco Mysteries” — a brief stint as a Vegas stand-up, John Bronco Reads the Classics audio books (“Moby Dick,” as vaguely recollected by the pitchman, who confuses it with “Jaws”), his own brand of breakfast cereal and of course, lots of lots of Ford Bronco TV commercials, “meaner’n a wet panther you forgot to invite to your birthday party.

The new Ford Bronco co-stars, pitched as “There’s nothing better for the inside of a man, than the outside of a Bronco.” There’s also Tim Meadows as Bronco’s cynical longtime manager, with cameos by Michael Chilkis, appearing here as a former child-actor traumatized by working with Bronco, and Brian Austin Green.

I’ve been a big Goggins fan for years, and keep hoping he’ll land something as funny as “Vice Principals” again, teamed up with Danny McBride one more time or Tim Blake Nelson. So I’d say this was funny if it was, but I can’t because it isn’t.

Rating: unrated, seriously inoffensive

Cast: Walton Goggins, Tim Baltz, with Tim Meadows, Michael Chiklis and Brian Austin Green.

Credits: Directed by Jonathan Krisel. A Hulu release.

Running time: :25

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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