Wednesday, May 20, 2009

My Name is Bruce

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Bruce Campbell. We nerds love him. Hell, I thought he'd be a great Superman, when he was younger, if they ever made a movie of The Dark Knight Returns (I still hope that's why Nolan gave the latest Batman movie that title). Ash is one of the funniest and likeable louts of all time, and Campbell went on to memorable roles as Brisco County Jr., one lamentably cancelled TV show, and as Smitty in The Hudsucker Proxy, where he fit right into the His Girl Friday newspaper milieu.
But I'm no fanboy, really. I haven't seen any of his B movies like Lunatics: A Love Story or Alien Apocalypse. I did see McHale's Navy in theaters, and like everyone else I loved Bubba Ho-Tep (it helps that it was written by Joe R. Lansdale) so I'm somewhere in the middle. My Name is Bruce has a lot going for it, but it just squeaks by. It's an entertaining film, but it feels like it could have been so much more. The concept is a great one: an ancient evil is unleashed in a podunk town home to Campbell's biggest fan, who tricks him into coming to save them. But of course, Bruce thinks it's a publicity stunt.
So it's ¡Three Amigos! with Bruce done B-movie horror style, and he has a lot of fun with it. Thankfully it's infectious. He directed it as well, and gives it a Cat Ballou feel by having two townsfolk play acoustic guitar and sing about the monster, Guan-Di- the Chinese god of war and bean curd- disturbed from its ancient resting place by punks defiling a graveyard for Chinese miners who died in a collapse. Guan-Di sort of looks like a giant grey-haired Fu-Manchu puppet exiled from a wushu troupe, swinging his bladed staff around and lopping heads off left and right. He seeks revenge for the dead miners, and stalks the townsfolk whose ancestors committed the grave injustice.

Meanwhile Bruce is filming a lousy sequel to a cheap-ass sci-fi flick where he acts like King Shit of Turd Mountain on set. He also directs, and pokes a lot of fun at himself. He drives a shitbox, kicks a guy in a wheelchair who asks for his autograph, and lives in a trailer with an alcoholic dog. They drown their sorrows in cheap liquor, dodging calls from his ex-wife who wants more alimony, and trying to get his lousy agent to get him roles in something other than slimy alien sequels. It's campy as all hell, but Bruce has considerable charisma, and carries it off. He and Kurt Russell should star in a movie as brothers, because Bruce and Stuntman Mike from Death Proof look a hell of a lot alike. Plus, that would be frickin' awesome.
The movie is full of broad, cheap gags like the Italian sign painter who has to keep lowering the town's population, but it's full of a sense of fun. He knows the movie will only be watched by die hard fans, so he pokes fun at us, too. And the B-movie horror genre, with its formulaic endings and gotchas. I enjoyed it a lot, but part of me wanted it to aspire to be more than it was. But with the budget they had, this is pretty damn good. It's a must-see for Bruce Campbell fans of course; but he also makes it accessible for those who are just vaguely aware of him. As a campy comedy it's pretty good overall.

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