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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