Friday, January 23, 2009
Let me just start by saying that if you are a Bruce Campbell fan it will be almost impossible for you to not like this film. And if you aren't a Bruce Campbell you'll probably think it's one of the worst movies you've ever seen.
And that is what My Name Is Bruce basically is - a movie just for the fans. It's like Bruce Campbell's greatest hits. If you were a big enough Bruce fan to sit through McHale's Navy, this is like pure candy. He plays a parody of himself as filtered through his lovable jerk Ash persona. His movies are referenced heavily (with even a made-up one). He does all his best bits and his more famous quotes are littered throughout. And the cast is populated with past players in his less-than-impressive b-movie oeuvre (which of course includes Ted Raimi, the not quite as talented younger brother of Sam and Ivan).
So how do you get to be a Bruce fan? Where did they all come from? I have no idea. For me personally it was a quiet summer night sometime back in the late 1980s when myself and a small group of friends would raid the video rental section of a local grocery store that just so happened to be heavy stocked on scary movies. There must have been a kindred spirit behind the counter somewhere that would order pretty much every single blood and guts flick that came up for purchase and it did not go unnoticed by us. It didn't hurt that the girl that worked the customer service desk at night was a friend of mine so we almost never caught late fees when we found one good enough that it required an extra viewing night. So on that night one friend made note of a particular movie called Evil Dead 2 that reportedly co-starred a local hometown girl who had made it big, Kassie Wesley (later DePaiva, the girl who swallowed the eyeball). We rented it with little idea that it would fast become our favorite movie and would go on to be a heavily repeated rental in the months to come. It was brilliant madness. Frantic camerawork, slapstick horror, and our first taste of the man we would come to worship, Bruce Campbell. And in the years since our admiration hasn't lost steam one iota. A few years back I visited said friend on a trip to his city only to find a copy of "If Chins Could Kill" on his coffee table and him dutifully asking his 4-year-old son to identify the man on the cover. "Bwuce Cammell," his son quickly responded. "That's my boy!" my friend proudly proclaimed. Such is the dedication of a true Bruce fan.
And new generations of Bruce fans just keep on coming. How do they come to learn of 'the groovy' that is Bruce? The happy accident of a late night showing of Army of Darkness? An older brother who was already hip to the coolness of Brisco County Jr.? A curiosity to who this guy is that keeps showing up in the Spider-man movies? They just so happened to glimpse a charismatic yet goofy chap on an Old Spice commercial? It's hard to pinpoint.
Right, My Name is Bruce. A small town is being terrorized by an ancient evil spirit (of which whom they have a catchy song about) so the town's biggest Bruce Campbell fan elects to recruit his hero to help them out. In a plot not unlike Three Amigos the townsfolk have no idea that movie heroes aren't the same as real heroes so they welcome him as their savior. Bruce, playing the usual self-important yet self-loathing shemp is given little choice but to go along with it but soon decides to live it up and soak in a hero worship... until the time comes to confront the menace. In this case his own personal El Guapo is an evil Chinese god named Guan-di. That's where the crazy fun goes up a notch and Bruce reveals his true colors.
It's a fun idea that allows Bruce to be Bruce. But when you get down to it it's not that great of a story. It's not that well acted. The dialogue is extra-cheesy. And the monster isn't really in the least bit scary. But somehow, once again, Bruce makes you not care. He's smarmy and smug. He's a down on his luck drunk and a divorcee. He dances like he wants to hurt someone. He runs readily from the bad guy. He steals cars from old ladies. And he tries to womanize the only single mother in town. But it's still awesome. And when the chips are down and push comes to shove he steps up and makes good on saving the day. Or at least I think he does. The ending gets a little confusing. I will say however that I am supremely disappointed the custom built chainsaw foreshadowed halfway through the movies wasn't brought in for the final act. It was the only major failing of this film which made good on giving the fans what they want on every other level.
So it comes down to this. Bruce Campbell knows his fans. Not quite in the way that William Shatner understands how to poke fun of himself (for being full of himself) and make money on his own name, but it's pretty damn close. He knows his fans well enough that he tours with the film on a limited release and does Q and As along with it. He also knows enough about his fanbase to load down the DVD with extras and charge a little more for it when it is finally released early next month because we will happily pay for it to get the purest dose of Bruceness available since maybe Army of Darkness dropped over 15 years ago. Bruce is cashing in on us and we couldn't be happier.
Hail to the King baby.
(now I'm off to Hulu to catch up on Burn Notice!)