Judge Patrick Bromley thought this movie might jailhouse rock. Instead, it left him stranded at heartbreak hotel.
They're on the road to true love…get out of the way.
Joel Zwick (Fat Albert) directs Elvis Has Left the Building as if determined to prove that the success of his inexplicably popular indie hit, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, was nothing more than a fluke. It's a task he pulls off in spades, as I, for one, am convinced. The enormous good cheer surrounding the Greek Wedding had nothing to do with Zwick and everything to do with America's need to laugh at a confused man spraying Windex on things. How am I so sure of this? Because I've seen Elvis Has Left the Building, and now know that Zwick is every bit the hack I suspected him to be.
The movie follows the exploits of Harmony Jones (Kim Basinger, People I Know, Cellular), a traveling makeup saleswoman (no doubt inspired by the Mary Kay company, which is finally being taken down a peg or two) with an unfortunate habit for killing off Elvis impersonators. Not on purpose, mind you; it just happens that these pretenders tend to shuffle off the mortal coil in her presence. The movie can't even be bothered to come up with creatively appropriate ways to bump off its targets; shouldn't at least one of them choke to death on a fried peanut-butter-and-banana sandwich? Or have a fatally allergic reaction to blue suede? No, instead these Elvises (Elvi?) have road signs dropped on them (director Zwick's cameo—a regular Hitchcock, this guy) or their heads driven through mailboxes (I wouldn't dream of ruining that surprise cameo—it's Tom Hanks). Along the way, Harmony is trailed by a couple of hapless detectives and a hunk (John Corbett, Bigger Than the Sky, Raise Your Voice) with his eye on her and an Elvis suit in his trunk.
This is a film I can't imagine possibly working. Is killing off Elvis impersonators inherently funny? No, unless it stems from some attitude that the filmmakers have about these pretenders to the King's throne. No one affiliated with Elvis Has Left the Building (a title that suggests the writers started there and worked backward) takes any kind of position on Elvis or his legions of fans and imitators—the movie is neither satiric wake-up call nor affectionate love letter. As such, it's about nothing more than the central conceit of the plot—a gimmick—and for that to work, it would have to be a heck of a gimmick (we're talking some Charlie Kaufman–level stuff here, nice people). When a film about Elvis demonstrates no genuine feelings about the King one way or the other, it's asking an awful lot to expect its audience to care. The movie needs to lead by example.
Not to worry, though. Lions Gate presents Elvis Has the Left the Building in a solidly attractive 1.85:1 widescreen transfer, and with both 5.1 surround and standard 2.0 stereo audio tracks. They've even gone ahead and supplied the disc with a couple of bonus trailers and a commentary track by director Zwick, who—just as I suspected—is blissfully unaware of his film's shortcomings. I'm hard on Zwick because, well, he's got it coming; for a guy with his resume, I expect a little more humility.
Look, lots of bad movies have crossed my desk during my time here at DVD Verdict, and Elvis Has Left the Building isn't even the worst among them. I'm probably just being grouchy these days. The older I get, the busier I get, the more I realize that life is short—too short for a film like this. Every single person involved has done better work, and Andrew Bergman's Honeymoon in Vegas did a far superior job combining romantic comedy with the absurdity of Elvis worship and the joy of his artistry.
Even that last sentence—using words like "absurdity" and "joy" in reference to Elvis Presley—contains more of a point of view than the entirety of this film. See how easy it was?
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary with Director Joel Zwick
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