Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Saint of Soy vs. The God of Groovy

Bruce Campbell is the most beloved B-movie actor of the modern era, and rightfully so. With his boomstick-sharp chin and rubber-made expressions, he's a tad too quirky for leading man roles and far too conspicuous for character actor status.  A Bruce Campbell movie is always A Bruce Campbell movie, so it's only fitting that he would direct himself in the very funny, very goofy, quite imperfect and mega meta My Name Is Bruce, a sort of JCVD by way of The Three Amigos.

Perhaps the best initial decision of My Name Is Bruce was to make the character of Bruce Campbell an absolute jerk. This is the kind of celebrity you giddily approach at Chiller Theater, not for a $25 signed photo, but simply to get an honest handshake. His reaction? Avoid eye contact and extend limp wrist as if it weighed more than modern Val Kilmer (*cough cough Tom Savini New Jersey 2004). This Campbell feeds whiskey to his son-of-a-bitch dog, slobberly hits on his co-star, drunk dials his ex-wife (Ash's first unlucky Cheryl) and occasionally sends disabled autograph seekers to the emergency room (and they occasionally deserve it).

Mixed in with our early introductions of Campbell are a few scenes establishing small town terror in Oregon. A pair of punky teenagers--one a diehard Evil Dead-head who won't accept liking Bubbah Ho Tep as BC cred--do as horror teens do and unleash an ancient demon in a graveyard. The only logical solution to save the quickly dwindling population (the emergency is made more serious as the official Welcome sign painter is running dangerously low on population marking paint) is to kidnap the man behind the chainsaw and hope that three go arounds with Sam Raimi are enough experience to fight a decapitation happy monster. Since business in Hollywood is slow (although Cave Alien 3 + 4 are already greenlit for a Bulgarian shoot), and the fanboy's mom is single, Campbell agrees.

What follows is a good time that never quite reaches greatness. Campbell is a hoot as a Hollywood has-been (or never-was), but the script isn't quite tight enough to truly render it a classic. There are certainly moments of grandeur--Campbell's initial confrontation with the demon finally answers the question I've always had about movie characters running away and firing behind blindly--but I guess when I hear that Bruce Campbell is playing himself battling the Protector of War and Bean Curd, I expect brilliance. Don't get me wrong: I genuinely enjoyed this movie, and anyone with a sense of humor about horror will too.

High Points
Nobody can pull off gloating quite like Bruce Campbell

...the same could be said for shooting spitballs at small town mayors

Guan-di’s love of tofu makes this the best vegetarian propaganda since Troll 2

Ted Rami's performance as a Frenchish sign painter dedicated to his art is obvious but charming

Low Points
Ted Raimi's performance as an elderly Chinese man is obvious but borders on Mickey Rooney level offensiveness

The incredibly twangy theme song left me wanting more moments of ridiculous musical interludes

As a big fan of tofu, I think the Protector of Bean Curd could have been, I don't know, a tad more soyous

Lessons Learned
Bruce Campbell is the only man alive who can utter "Give me some sugar baby" and actually get it

Violence against old people has a pretty darn high rate of funniness

Chainsaws are indeed very heavy

Winning Line
“I’ll be right back. Don’t do anything quaint until I return.”

Buy for Bruce. It’s a silly horror spoof made for fans and it’s impossible not to crack a few smiles. Maybe I’m slightly jaded from having just viewed Severance--a better made film with more complex jokes--but My Name Is Bruce is a light and fluffy good time. It won’t change your life, but seeing Bruce Campbell decked out in a Hawaiian shirt showing off his dance moves, abusing old women and orphaning children without consequence will make your day a little brighter.

No comments:

Post a Comment