PLOT An Olympic gymnast stuck in the past agrees to coach a promising newcomer.
CAST Melissa Rauch, Sebastian Stan, Haley Lu Richardson.
RATED R (Strong language, crude humor, sexuality).
BOTTOM LINE A crude yet cuddly comedy written by a star of “The Big Bang Theory.”
Meet Hope Ann Greggory, a 2004 Olympic gymnast whose crowning achievement provides the title of “The Bronze.” Her heroic performance on an injured foot turned her into America’s sweetheart but ended her career. Back home in Amherst, Ohio, all she has are the reserved parking space and free pizza that come with minor celebrity. Even those perks may vanish, however, when another local girl begins making noise about Olympic gold.
“The Bronze” is a cinematic calling-card for Melissa Rauch, from the CBS sitcom “The Big Bang Theory,” who plays Hope and wrote the script with her husband, Winston Rauch. Though Melissa Rauch has had small film roles before, this is her attempt to join the ranks of female TV-to-movie stars like Kristen Wiig, Amy Poehler, Amy Schumer and Melissa McCarthy. Ever since “Bridesmaids,” comediennes have felt the need to reach for R-rated raunch, and Rauch is no exception. She plays Hope with such a foul mouth and a promiscuous streak that the character borders on psychotic. Still, “The Bronze” is an enjoyably crude-yet-cuddly comedy with a fine cast, richly drawn characters and a good heart under its rough exterior.
Rauch, a pint-size actress with forceful energy, is very funny as a two-for-one spoof of Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding — a onetime champion who has devolved into a small-town harpy with an outdated haircut. Her father, a hardworking postal worker (the dependably great Gary Cole), tolerates her mostly out of guilt. Hope’s stagnant life changes when she’s told that her old coach has died and left behind a classically kooky will: Hope stands to gain a fortune, but only if she agrees to coach Maggie (Haley Lu Richardson), a goody-goody gymnast on her way to the Olympics.
Rounding out the story are Ben (an excellent Thomas Middleditch), a likable local guy with a severe facial tic, and Lance (Sebastian Stan, “Captain America”), a handsome Olympian determined to sink Hope’s dreams. Director Bryan Buckley, a television commercial veteran, stages one outlandishly funny gag involving two gymnasts in a bedroom, but he also seems to really feel for these characters. By the end, so do we. “The Bronze” may not quite achieve gold, but it’s an impressive effort.