Image Entertainment // 2007 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // December 12th, 2008
Fearless! Unstoppable! Ready For His Close-Up!
Bruce Campbell once made a woman climax simply by saying "Groovy." Her husband climaxed, too.
Mistaken for the hero he so often portrays on the big screen, B-movie idol Bruce Campbell (Alien Apocalypse) is kidnapped and taken to the town of Gold Lick where a group of teenagers have unwittingly released the demon, Guan Di.
Though it takes some time, the townsfolk eventually come to realize that Campbell is nothing but a drunken, cowardly has-been. More concerned with finding his next role and a date with a pre-op transsexual, Campbell initially assumes the whole thing is a joke, set up by his agent (Ted Raimi, Millennium Crisis). Giving his best hero impression, Campbell convinces the townsfolk he really is their knight in a dodgy Hawaiian shirt, before running away in fear when he finally comes face to face with Guan Di.
But when Jeff, the young man responsible for convincing the good folk of Gold Lick that Campbell would save them, calls Bruce to say he alone will face Guan Di, Campbell has a change of heart. Realizing he owes Jeff, Campbell races back to Gold Lick and, with the help of Jeff's mom (whom Bruce has his eye on), heads out to take on Guan Di with nothing but a small firearm and a whole heap of bean curd.
I love Bruce Campbell. Please don't misunderstand me, my love for him is in a purely platonic way, but nonetheless, I love him. He belongs to an elite group of actors who bring something special to the table, and are capable of stealing the show completely or making the most putrid pile of garbage watchable. Members of this group range from the upper echelons of the acting community, such as Morgan Freeman (Wanted) and Russell Crowe (Cinderella Man) to the less revered but still quality names, like Ed Harris (A History of Violence) or Edward Norton (Fight Club). But it's down in the bargain basement where the real heroes are found. Here you'll find men and women prepared to star in the most excruciating trash, all in the hope of a half-decent movie and a fair wage. Men like Michael Biehn (Planet Terror) and Casper Van Dien (Dracula 3000). But no matter where they may be in the pecking order, each and every one of them must bow down to the king -- Mr. Bruce Campbell. Arguably the best part of Spider-Man 3, Campbell single handedly made Crimewave worthwhile, made a fantastic Elvis in Bubba Ho-Tep, and, in my humble opinion, might have saved Batman Forever had he beaten Val Kilmer to the title role. Trust me, if you ever have the misfortune to watch Terminal Invasion you'll be grateful for Campbell's presence.
Having been a fan of Campbell since Evil Dead 2 I guess I'm predisposed to liking My Name Is Bruce, but in all honesty the moment the screener arrived in the post I panicked. Like most of Campbell's fans I had anticipated this movie more so than any of his films since Bubba Ho-Tep, but holding the disc in my hand for the first time the fear hit me. What if the film sucks? Due to a protracted release schedule that saw the film gain only a limited theatrical release, which itself came over a year after its initial screenings, I had genuine concerns that something was wrong; a succession of poor reviews only served to heighten my fears.
Well, friends, I come before you today to allay your fears. Though some way off his finest work, My Name is Bruce is a blast from start to finish, a love letter to Bruce Campbell and his fans that helps remind us all why "the chin" is the legend that he is, commanding such devotion from his adoring public.
In the tradition of all of Campbell's best (and worst) work the plot for My Name Is Bruce is thin. Scratch that, it's anorexic. But what makes the movie such a joy is the attention to detail, the small things that will mean so much to Campbell's fan base. Campbell's trademark slapstick is given free reign, while a succession of in-jokes and plays on some of Campbell's most famous one-liners keep the gags coming thick and fast.
Campbell, as ever, gives 110 percent to the role. Playing himself as a bombastic, drunken, lecherous coward, Campbell seems comfortable mocking both himself and his career. It's this combination of self-depreciation and self-awareness that has always made Campbell such a likeable actor; here it acts as the channel for so much of the film's humor. The cowardly aspect, something that has been a great source of comedy since Campbell screamed like a woman in Evil Dead 2 is mined to great effect during the first half of the movie. Upon first encountering Guan Di, Campbell, who until that moment had assumed the whole thing was a joke, runs away in fear, leaving the folk of Gold Lick in his wake. Campbell's reaction is hilarious, as is the sight of him firing wildly in the direction of Guan Di, only to hit the fleeing townsfolk instead. Meanwhile a Rawhide gag early on is worth the price of admission alone.
Following his directorial debut with the 2005 stinker The Man With The Screaming Brain, Campbell shows a much more assured touch here, keeping the film far more focused on what is essential than the often scattershot Screaming Brain. There's no question Mark Verheiden's script is vital to the film's success, its relative simplicity helping to ensure the film maintains a consistent flow of gags and action. Clearly understanding both his subject and target audience, Verheiden lovingly sends up and celebrates the glory that is Campbell without ever coming close to ridiculing him.
The supporting cast, led by Ted Raimi in a number of different guises, appears to be having great fun. A handful of Campbell's fellow Evil Dead alumni also make an appearance in a number of small roles. For everyone who ever wondered what happened to Jake (Dan Hicks) from Evil Dead 2 or the blacksmith from Army of Darkness (Timothy Patrick Quill), the pair make an appearance here guaranteed to raise at least a smile, while fans of the original The Evil Dead are sure to appreciate a cameo from Ellen Sandweiss as Campbell's estranged wife, Cheryl. Grace Thorsen makes for an appealing leading lady, playing opposite Campbell as "MILF" Kelly Graham, while newcomer Taylor Sharpe, as uber-fan Jeff, does good work here and shares a good rapport with Campbell.
The screener sent for review contained only the film, with no sign of any extras on the disc. The packaging does list a nice-looking bunch of special features to be included on the retail copy, including a commentary with Campbell and a comic book adaptation of the movie.
Sporting a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer, My Name Is Bruce isn't a bad-looking movie. Quite often set in dark and dingy locales, the image retains a good level of detail. Colors are strong, and though there are a few instances of macro blocking, these are likely to be a result of the disc being a screener copy, which is often of a lesser quality than the final retail product. The 5.1 soundtrack never gives much reason for you to stand up and take notice. The dialogue is crisp but, with the exception of the lightning that accompanies the appearance of Guan Di, there's nothing spectacular. Thankfully there aren't any real flaws to report either.
Despite a nice line in decapitations and some nicely employed sound effects, Guan Di doesn't make for much of a villain. While it's fair to say he isn't really that important to the plot, it is a notable weak point that loses the film some points. There is no attempt to add any depth to the character, leaving him free to crop up every few minutes, lop someone's head off, and disappear again. One other gripe I had with My Name Is Bruce comes once Bruce finally grasps the gravity of the situation he finds himself facing. There's a marked change in direction, which sees the film border on the sentimental as Campbell drops his selfish ways and learns to become a better man. My feelings towards this change in tone are conflicted. On the one hand the joke rate falls a little; on the other hand I kind of dig the lovey-dovey feeling. After all, the whole film is one big Bruce Campbell love-in, a movie made for fans by fans, so why not spread the love around on screen too?
My Name Is Bruce is probably not going to win Campbell any new fans. Those uneducated on his genius are likely to sit dumbfounded, mouths agape as this procession of goofy carnage rolls by. Fans, however, should have a field day. Being a Bruce Campbell fan is a somewhat unique experience, where even his most diehard fans will admit to seeing every turkey in his filmography and yet still cherish each one. My Name Is Bruce, however, is no guilty pleasure. This is supreme entertainment; this is comfort food for the soul that is sure to become another Campbell classic. Now bring on Evil Dead 4!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Audio Commentary
* Heart of Dorkness: The Making of My Name Is Bruce
* Hard Truth News from Hollywood: The Real Bruce Campbell
* Kif's Korner: The Making of Real Fake Posters
* Bruce On...
* CaveAlien 2 Trailer
* Bruce Campbell Official Site