Bruce Campbell made a bad movie. This isn’t news — it’s kinda what he does. The charm, nay, the effervescent glory of The Great Chinned One is that he can take the messiest hunk of Monterey Jack and make it sublime. He’s the supreme overlord of B-Movies, snatching sugar from starlets and dispatching ghouls with his trusty boomstick. No matter how dreadful the script, he manages to be the shining star that rises above the crap. Even if it’s made in Bulgaria. Remember his turn in Escape from L.A. as the Surgeon General of Beverly Hills? It was painful to witness — and yet, you were still drawn in by his charisma. Robin Williams self-immolating himself couldn’t have pulled that off. It didn’t salvage the movie; it just made that brief moment palatable. You don’t expect a heartbreaking work of staggering genius when you see a Campbell film. You want machismo with a side of cantilevered eyebrow and manic laughter.
My Name is Bruce should have been the culmination of all greatness. It’s a low-budget B-Movie, penned by Mark Verheiden — who has several episodes of “Battlestar Galactica” and “Heroes” under his belt, and directed by the chin himself. Campbell plays an overblown version of Bruce Campbell — with all the swagger and douchebaggery of a drunken pirate. He’s kidnapped by a rabid fan, tossed in the trunk of a Charger, and driven to the town of Gold Lick, Oregon to save the yokels from the wrath of Guan-di, a displaced Chinese warlord and the patron saint of tofu. With a premise that retreaded, it’s gotta be phenomenal, right? Instead of the knockout mozzarella-fest I was expecting, it’s a pathetically weak rehash of Three Amigos with less meat in it than soup kitchen meatloaf.
This pains me to write. I’d sooner shave Beyonce’s backside. I desperately wanted this to be on par with the amazing Bubba Ho-Tep. You couldn’t ask for a stupider premise in that film — Elvis and Black JFK take on a mummy killing Cocoon left-behinds by sucking their souls out of their bungholes. It was brilliantly acted, hilarious, and ridiculous — everything a healthy kid needs to grow up and be Bruce Campbell. Well, that and chinplants. As a director, Campbell just doesn’t understand how to supplement his own schtick for maximum effect. What Rob Zombie has done for horror, Campbell has done for The Three Stooges. I’m just not sure what Our Strongjawed Savior was going for when he made this.
The low budget rips a gash in the movie deeper than Guan-di’s machete on a broomstick. I can’t tell if Campbell was trying to be meta — or if it was a throwback to his old school Raimi days — but that would be giving him way too much credit. Even if every cornball antic was done on purpose, it still can’t rise above the terrible, terrible spastic slapstick. Campbell’s trying to delve for yucks with a combination of fourth-grade booger humor and F-Grade decapitations — which is manna to his core fan base. But there’s none of the off-the-wall splatterosity of his previous work. Everyone dies in the same mannequin-head-on-a-prop-dummy beheading followed by a spurtting jet of red Karo. Guan-di’s the worst slasher nemesis ever created, and I’m including the Ghoulies, Pumpkinhead and Leprechaun. For a man who’s spent most of his career slathered in special effects makeup, it’s inexcusable he costumed his baddie in a getup that wouldn’t be inappropriate outside of the House of Wang restaurant. It’s looks like someone microwaved a David Lo Pan action figure.
Almost the entire cast consists of amateurs, including the lead hottie and her son, Campbell’s Number One Superfan. There’s a couple of somewhat amusing cameos from Ted Raimi. He plays every part Bruce Campbell would have played in Ted’s brother’s films. Unfortunately, most of Raimi’s parts are based on really bad improv sketch imitations of Old Chinese Man, Luigi Mario, and Hollywood Agent. Campbell throws a bunch of references at his diehard fans which, let’s face it, are the only people bothering to watch this film. And yet, it seems like he was making fun of them. Campbell leaves the set of his latest godawful film — where the lead actress loathes him and the crew pisses in a bottle of water and tells him it’s lemon flavored — and gets swamped by rabid fans who pepper him with asinine questions like “Did working with Ellen make you gay?” It’s as if Campbell’s taking a personal moment to sit them down, shake them by the shirt collars, and say, “What the fuck is wrong with you? I’m just an actor, dammit. Put down the hot pocket and the Xbox controller and go out into the sunlight.”
Campbell tries to create this alternate reality version of himself: a desperate loser alcoholic who’s also somehow this self-important jerk, abusing the little people. I almost wish Campbell had tried to make a real horror film rather than this meandering sad parody that would have been better off slapping copious tits in it and calling it National Lampoon Presents Bruce Campbell Tells You To Fuck Off. I would have liked to see something along the lines of Last Action Hero, where Campbell is forced to face his celluloid self. But here, he’s too busy honking butts. All the funny parts would have fit just as well had this been action heavy. Especially the part where he’s finally confronted with the reality of the demon Guan-di and runs screaming past the townfolk while firing wildly behind him, shooting them instead. If he’s going to burgle the plot wholesale of Three Amigos, where film stars are mistaken for real heroes, act overconfident, let down the townfolk, then decide to be heroes for real, then he should have at least had the decency to add a plethora of sweaters or a singing cactus.
My Name is Bruce could have been fantastic, but it wasn’t. Not even in a accidentally-losing-your-virginity-to-your-first-cousin fantastic kind of way. I went in hoping for a JCVD style movie, and instead ended up with eye herpes. But Campbell isn’t an idiot. My Name is Bruce will be snatched up by the Deadite Die-Hards, the ones who bought a copy of the Necronomicon Cased Army of Darkness even though they already owned a copy of the Army of Darkness because dude, now I can shout Klaatu Veritas Nihomenimen. It’s not like he’s taking a risk of alienating his fanbase, because let’s face it — you fuckers probably have an autographed copy of The Man with the Screaming Brain on Blu-Ray. Campbell doesn’t have to worry about stumbling and falling because his career’s been spent knees first in the dirt. He just took a wrong turn on this one. He was trying to recapture the glory days of the old 8mm flicks by making a film just as low tech. Whereas Sam Raimi’s been toying with my sanity and dancing around with the idea of doing an Evil Dead 4 — only with a massive budget. Bruce needs to realize we don’t love him for the B-Movie quality but the attitude of balls out reckless fun. He should have been smarter. S-Marter.
Brian Prisco lives in a pina down by the mer-port of Burbank, by way of the cheesesteak-laden arteries of Philadelphia. When not traveling in and out of books to stay narrowly ahead of the pack of Cannonball Readers, he can be found on a Wii Fit staying narrowly ahead of a massive coronary infarction. He catches what floats down in the sewers of the comments section and burps it up for your amusement. Any and all grumblings can be directed to priscogospel at hotmail dot com. He steadfastly awaits the day when Mayor McCheese comes up for re-election so he can finally bust up the porkbellies of McTammany Hall.
My Name is Bruce / Brian Prisco
Film | February 13, 2009 | Comments ()