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Our review of My Name Is Bruce, published December 12th, 2008, is also available.
Fearless! Unstoppable! Ready For His Close-Up!
"You don't know fear, kid. You've never worked with Sam Raimi."—Bruce Campbell
Facts of the Case
On a dark and creepy night in the quaint town of Gold Lick, Oregon, goth teen Jeff (Taylor Sharpe) accidentally unleashes Guan-Di, the Chinese guardian of the dead and protector of bean curd. The kid decides that the only way to stop the monster is to kidnap his favorite actor and star of countless B monster movies, Bruce Campbell (Bruce Campbell, The Evil Dead). Thinking the kidnapping is a prank by his agent, the abrasive and none-too-bright Campbell plays along at first, but freaks out when he realizes Guan-Di is no cheesy special effect. Can Campbell find the courage to match the heroics of his screen personae and defeat the demon?
My Name Is Bruce isn't a good movie, but that's okay, because it's not really supposed to be. It is self-consciously B-grade (Campbell muses in the extras about the dozens of My Name Is Bruces that could be made for the price of one Spider-Man). The movie is, more than anything, a love letter from the actor-director-producer to his fans. If you're not the sort of person who digs whiling away a couple hours with Evil Dead 2 or Maniac Cop, or who thinks it's a drag that The Adventures of Briscoe County, Jr. only lasted for 27 episodes, then your reaction to My Name Is Bruce will likely be a hearty WTF? If you're down with all things Campbell, it's a nostalgia ride through '80s schlock style starring that guy with the chin who, in some better, alternate universe somewhere, is an Oscar-winning household name.
My Name Is Bruce's greatest asset is Bruce—specifically, the venal, abrasive, cynical, arrogant, ignorant, pathetic, fan-abusing, Shemp brand whiskey-swilling, yet somehow charming fictional version of Campbell who is the star of the show. The real Bruce Campbell parlayed his starring turns in Sam Raimi's Evil Dead trilogy into bonafide cult status by way of his finely honed self-deprecating humor. The fake Bruce Campbell is a perfect expression of that fun-loving spirit, an unapologetic douche-bag whose charm we can't resist. The screenplay by Mark Verheiden (writer and producer on Ron Moore's re-imagined Battlestar Galactica) is loaded with gags we've all seen a million times—slapstick, puns, and double entendres pilfered from Looney Tunes cartoons, The Three Stooges, and the Marx Brothers (heck, there's even a scene in which Bruce makes a crucial decision with the help of a little angel and a little devil perched on his shoulders). But when it comes to humor, old school or new, delivery is everything, and Campbell plays these old jokes like Yo-Yo Ma plays the cello.
The real Campbell not only marvelously performs the fake Campbell, he acquits himself well behind the camera. My Name Is Bruce isn't Campbell's first stab at directing, but it's his best effort yet (he's also helmed The Man with the Screaming Brain, as well as episodes of V.I.P., Hercules: The Legendary Journey, and Xena: Warrior Princess). While My Name Is Bruce apes the style of low-budget horror flicks, it is assembled with a great deal more care, wit, and competence. It ain't Citizen Kane, but it ain't Plan 9 from Outer Space, either. Campbell's framing is text-book solid, and he draws fine performances out of his actors (it's clear from the making-of documentary on this disc that everyone had a great time).
The movie's cast is fleshed out with a combination of faces familiar to schlock horror fans, and local Oregon talent. Frequent Campbell collaborator Ted Raimi (who played J. Jonah Jameson's bumbling assistant in his brother Sam's Spider-Man trilogy) plays three roles: Campbell's slimy and negligent agent, an Italian sign painter tasked with the frustrating job of lowering the population count on Gold Lick's town sign as Guan-Di's victims begin piling up, and an eccentric Chinese hermit with a bad attitude and a deep knowledge of Guan-Di lore. Dan Hicks (Evil Dead 2) and Tim Quill (Army of Darkness) play Pig Farmer Dan and Frank the Gun Store Owner, greasy Gold Lick hicks carrying on a secret love affair. Ellen Sandweiss, who played Cheryl in The Evil Dead, makes a cameo appearance as Campbell's alimony-hungry ex-wife. The local talent stand-out is Grace Thorsen, who is perfect as our hero's love interest, giving her character a spot-on mix of earthy sexiness and innate intelligence. Thorsen's Kelly Graham pegs Campbell as a douche bag from the get-go, though she's ultimately unable to resist his charms. Without Thorsen's fine performance, Campbell would have had trouble selling the lovable portion of his lovable loser fictional self.
My Name Is Bruce's 1080p MPEG4 AVC transfer is solid if unexceptional. Depth, detail, and color reproduction are slightly superior to DVD, but only slightly. Digital artifacts are rare, though, and the image is stable and attractive. Limitations are rooted entirely in the low-budget source and not the digital transfer itself. The DTS HD lossless audio mix is spatially well-designed but doesn't offer the full-throated roar of big budget horror adventures.
In the extras department, there are a couple substantive offerings that detail the film's production, and then a whole lot of silliness. An audio commentary by Campbell and associate producer Mike Richardson is quite informative and fairly entertaining, though not as funny as his commentaries for the Evil Dead flicks (mainly because Campbell has no reason this time around to poke fun at Sam Raimi). "Heart of Dorkness" is a one-hour making-of documentary, as full of information as it is zaniness. Between the commentary and the documentary, you'll glean as much information as anyone could want about the making of the film.
On the silly side, "Awkward Moments with 'Kif'" (1:59) is a reel of raw video footage showcasing the dry wit of associate producer Craig "Kif" Sanborn. Similarly, "Bruce On…" (4:06) is a collection of Campbell's on-set riffing. "'Kif's' Korner" (2:44) shows Sanborn doing some graphic design work, putting together posters and DVD cases for Death of the Dead, The Stoogitive, Attack of the Catering Tent Bees, The Adventures of Chinbilly and Dirtface, and other fake movies starring the fake Bruce Campbell. Kif's handiwork can be seen in poster art and prop galleries. There's also a sizable gallery of production photos. There is a faux trailer as well as a making-of documentary for Cavealien 2 (pronounced "Cah-vah-lee-un"), the crappy movie Campbell is making when he's kidnapped. "The Hard Truth" (3:52) is a hard-hitting piece of entertainment journalism about "the man, the myth, the so-called legend" that is Bruce Campbell. "Love Birds" is a video love letter from the cast and crew to newlyweds Pig Farmer Dan and Frank the Gun Store Owner. Finally, there's a trailer for the film. (There are also a couple of easy-to-find Easter Eggs.)
In addition to the disc, a full-color Dark Horse mini-comic book version of Campbell's battle against Guan-Di is tucked into the keepcase.
Well made and genuinely funny, My Name Is Bruce is a must-see for Campbell's legion of nerdy fans (among whom I count myself).
Given the minimal price difference between the DVD and the BD releases, those with Blu-ray players shouldn't hesitate to grab this disc instead of the standard definition release. While the audio/video presentation isn't reference quality, it's still superior to the DVD.
Sleep with the scorpions, bitch!
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