The Bronze is a mutant baby of a movie that shouldn’t work as well as it does (though as the X-Men have proven, mutants can be cute, too). In Bryan Buckley’s clunky if affecting debut, the jerk-com melds with the rom-com in the tiny blonde form of Hope Ann Greggory (four-feet-eleven cowriter Melissa Rauch), a former Olympic gymnast whose post-athletic existence is so empty that she spanks it to a video of her 2004 bronze-winning routine.

She’s also dishonest, insulting, and manipulative—a Meg-Ryan-in-the-1980s-sweetheart she is not—but since she’s the pride of Amherst, Ohio, everyone tolerates her, especially besotted gym manager Ben (Silicon Valley’s Thomas Middleditch in a twitchy, touching performance) and her postal carrier father Stan (the indispensable Gary Cole) who have a higher tolerance than most. Then, when her estranged coach exits the picture, Hope inherits the job, making her the worst possible mentor for the impressionable Maggie (Haley Lu Richardson).

What follows isn’t completely surprising, but the film ends exactly as it should. Though Rauch’s grating accent takes some getting used to, fans of Eastbound and Down and Observe and Report will find a similar tone at work—along with the most acrobatic sex scene since Jeremy Irons and Juliette Binoche decimated a kitchen in Louis Malle’s Damage. recommended