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  • Bubba Ho-Tep (2003): ***½

    Directed by Don Coscarelli

    I very much enjoyed this movie. It's a very, very small, very light, very little movie, but what it is is very well done and a lot of fun. In strange ways.

    This is not a drop-dead, laugh-a-minute comedy. This is the kind of comedy that slowly builds to infrequent big laughs. Much of the film is actually pretty dramatic and serious, although there are always things to chuckle at considering that the premise is that Elvis and JFK are in a retirement home fighting a mummy.

    When I thought back after the movie had finished I realized, "wow, not very much actually happened in that film." It was adapted from a short story, and it really has a short story feel to it. The movie has three definite parts: Elvis is in a retirement home; Elvis and JFK learn that there is an Egyptian mummy stealing people's souls; Elvis and JFK decide to fight the mummy. It's very simple. There are no plot twists or anything. It's straight ahead. But so what? It's very good.

    Even in the slower moments it is still very interesting. It never lost my attention or made my mind wander. Bruce Campbell is alternately sympathetic and regularly pathetic as the elderly Elvis, who years ago traded identities with an impersonator who liked drugs a little bit too much. The real Elvis here fell off a stage and broke his hip and slipped into a coma, and by the time he woke up his replacement had died and it was too late to switch back. The flashbacks that Pressley has are very poignant, as his "friends" suck him dry and he is so patently miserable. Also some of the biggest laughs are in these flashbacks, as when he walks in on his impersonator and the impersonator can just somehow feel that Elvis has entered the building without even seeing him. Also the "minor barbeque accident" had me busting a gut. When Elvis finally starts feeling his oats again (in a very funny scene involving the recurring nurse character), he starts to evoke some good ol' kickass, rooting for the underdog, go-get-em spirit in the audience. The fact that these old codgers, who are clearly outmached by a supernatural enemy (not to mention that they don't really know exactly waht they're doing), are still willing to go after the mummy in the end makes for some great feel-good times.

    One thing I really do like about this movie is that it never judges whether or not these are actually Elvis and JFK in this retirement home or two crazy dudes. Sure Elvis's story is much more plausible than JFK's, but why then does JFK warrant a much better room (and so much more candy) than any of the ohter residents of the home?

    One thing I didn't like about the movie is that it basically drops everything for the third act showdown. Elvis and the main nurse character had built this really cool relationship during the course of the movie, but towards the end of the second act there's a scene where he really cusses her out, and then she's never in the movie again. I really wanted some sort of reconciliation between the two of them because I really liked both characters a lot, and for that to be the last time we see her really let me down.

    So overall this is a very good, funny, and surprisingly poingnant little film. And it is very little. This isn't some sprawling epic or some laugh-a-minute rollercoaster ride of a film. But it made me feel real good for watching it.

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