As reported by Deadline, Lionsgate has asserted itself early at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and picked up Jared Hess’ Don Verdean well ahead of the January 28 premiere. Hess directed the film and wrote the script with his wife, Jerusha Hess, making this the fourth feature they’ve worked on together. Their first Sundance darling, 2004’s Napoleon Dynamite, earned more than $46 million on its modest $400,000 budget—and, more importantly, inspired an entire generation of youths to campaign for a fictional character with a vigor no real politician ever could.
Don Verdean features the duo’s Gentlemen Broncos star Sam Rockwell as a biblical archaeologist who’s hired by a small town church pastor to find sacred artifacts in the Holy Land. When his efforts fail, comedy and absurdity inevitably ensue, bolstered by a supporting cast that includes Broncos co-star Jemaine Clement, Amy Ryan, Leslie Bibb, Danny McBride, and Will Forte. Although Napoleon Dynamite was a cult hit for the Hesses, their 2006 follow up, Nacho Libre, wasn’t as well received, while 2009’s Gentlemen Broncos was barely received at all.
Will Don Verdean be a return to form for Jared and Jerusha Hess? If their success is measured by what kind of creepy statue gets erected on the 10th anniversary of their films, they’ve got their work cut out for them.