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Bubba Ho-Tep

  Bubba Ho-Tep
Bruce Campbell is in desperate need
of a boom stick.


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Bruce Campbell at American Cinematheque
 
According to director Don Coscarelli ("Phantasm I-IV"), his latest movie "Bubba Ho-Tep" (IMDb listing) is the "true" story of a once-great music icon, who ends up an embittered, forgotten old codger. Based on a short story by horror writer Joe R. Lansdale, "Bubba" has one of the strangest movie plots in recent memory. Years before his "death," Elvis Presley (Bruce Campbell) grew tired of the trappings of fame and fortune. He hatched the bizarre plan of temporarily switching places with an Elvis impersonator, thus allowing himself the unencumbered life he once had as an unknown singer. Through a bizarre set of circumstances, the impersonator died posing as Elvis, leaving the real Elvis unable to reclaim his old life. To make matters worse, during a performance in which he was pretending to be the Fake Elvis, the real Elvis broke his hip, and ended up in a coma. Decades later, Elvis is now a forgotten, neglected old coot in a Texas rest home. He rages against his physical degradation and wallows in futility. He's also wracked with guilt over his past treatment of his wife Priscilla, and laments the fact that his own daughter doesn't even know who he is.

As if Elvis didn't have enough problems, his fellow rest home residents are faced with a serious life and death situation. An ancient Cowboy Mummy is stalking the halls of the dilapidated facility, consuming the souls of the residents one by one. Luckily, Elvis has an ally in Jack Kennedy (Ossie Davis), a physically disabled African American man who believes he is President John F. Kennedy. Well, maybe Elvis isn't so lucky...

Yes, the storyline sounds like something out of a low-budget, direct-to-video horror flick, but it's the inherent strangeness of the characters and situations that helps the movie transcend the cheesy setup. There are several scenes that are absolutely hilarious and the interaction between a latex-laden Campbell and the serious Ossie Davis is classic. Watch as a deadpan Davis explains to Elvis why there's a cowboy-hat-wearing mummy scrawling obscene hieroglyphics all over the toilet stall wall. Suspend your disbelief. Just go with the flow…

Elvis and JFK's misadventures kept me entertained throughout most of the film. Unfortunately, some of the running gags grew a little stale. Also, the anticlimactic resolution felt a bit rushed and half-assed. Inhibited by its super-low budget, "Bubba's" final battle between the Elvis/JFK duo and the soul-sucking cowboy mummy left me feeling quite unsatisfied. Despite these minor glitches, I really appreciated "Bubba Ho-Tep's" unique mixture of horror, comedy and drama. On the surface, this is an absurd story involving two dead American icons who face down an evil, soul-eating monster. As you peel back the layers of B-movie cheese, you realize that "Bubba Ho-Tep" is also a meditation on the sorrows of old age and abandonment. "Bubba" is an oftentimes hilarious little film that will be sure to please the cult crowd. It will also give mainstream audiences some pause for thought about the neglect that may face them in their twilight years.

Filmfodder Grade: B-








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