My Name is Bruce

My Name is Bruce

Film review by: Witney Seibold

 

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            For anyone who may not be familiar with the man, Bruce Campbell, often referred to as “Oh My God! It’s Bruce Fuckin’ Campbell!,” is the hard-working star of innumerable B movies, including highest among them “The Evil Dead” trilogy, and has had supporting roles in films as small as “The Ant Bully,” and as large as “Fargo.” He has appeared in almost all the films of Sam Raimi, and most of the films of The Coen Bros.  He is a ruggedly handsome man with a heroic chin. He is a gifted physical comedian, and a good actor. He grew up in a Michigan steeltown, and his parents’ working-class ethic rubbed off on him, thus he approaches every job as something to work hard on, even if it involves being sprayed with alien blood. Surely he must feel ridiculous at times, spewing some rather strange dialogue for films like “Alien Apocalypse,” but his gifts for humor and his no-bullshit attitude has garnered him a frenzied, decades-long following of crazed, Fangoria-reading fanboys.

 

            In his second feature as director, the now 50-year-old Campbell begins riffing on his myth. He’s always had a sense of humor about his place in the world of cinema, and with “My Name is Bruce,” he jumps in with both feet. The result is, rather unfortunately, a sloppy and amateurish affair with obviously broad attempts at lame comedy, and long stretches of painful mugging, but it’s still a delight to see Campbell doing his thing. Always a proponent of zero-budget filmmaking, he shot the bulk of his film on his own Oregon property with nothing but native talent, and very little money.

 

            Oh yeah, here’s the story: Bruce Campbell (Campbell), is a divorced alcoholic asshole who is stuck working on a film called “Cave Alien 2.” He treats everyone like dirt, regularly drunk-dials his ex-wife, frequents seedy strip joints, and has a not-so-secret loathing for his agent (Ted Raimi). One night, a teenage boy (Taylor Sharpe) arrives at Bruce’s trailer to enlist his help. It seems that the teenager has unwittingly awakened Guan-Di, the Chinese god of war. The boy knocks out Bruce, and drags him to Gold Lick, Oregon, where the entire population seems to believe that he has real experience in fighting real monsters. Bruce thinks this is all a birthday ruse concocted by his agent, so he playfully goes along with all of it. Can a B-movie actor who has only fought rubber monsters have any experience fighting a real one? And why does this sound a lot like that film “Galaxy Quest?”

 

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            Bruce also tries flirting with the teenage boys’ mother (Grace Thorsen) to no avail. Ted Raimi appears also as an Italian sign painter, and as a Chinese elder. The Chinese elder role is a bit offensive. There’s even an “Engrish” joke.

 

            “My Name is Bruce” is genial enough, and you can tell Campbell find the whole thing very funny, but, as a director, Campbell doesn’t really have the chops for the kind of comedy he was trying to make. He lets the camera dwell on every single joke. He pounds every punchline into the ground. There is no organic sense of humor or pacing; the film is content to hurl jokes at the audience like so many pies. The whole affair is funnier in concept than it is in execution.

 

            Campbell toured with “My Name is Bruce,” making personal appearances all over the country. I went to see it in Los Angeles, and the theater was packed with enthused fanboys, and cultists. His film may have been on the low end of his canon, but his fanbase was glad to see it nonetheless. I was too. I’m glad we have a Bruce Campbell in the world.

 

            Now go rent the “Evil Dead” movies. And maybe “Bubba Ho-Tep.”

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Published in: on January 6, 2009 at 11:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

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