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plot in a nutshell
Elvis never died - he swapped places to get away from the fame and all the crap that goes with it, only to break a hip a decade later and end up in an old folk's home. Now in his 70's, all alone and pretty much ready to die, he's faced with a rather unique challenge. A mummy, the title character Bubba Ho-Tep, has begun sucking the souls from the old
folks at the home. Only Elvis and a black man (Ozzie Davis) who is convinced he's JFK know what's happening, and it's up to them to save the day.
Neither a comedy nor a horror movie, instead this is a film about growing old, what a bitch it is, and how in a world of bed pans and absent children, one can still find dignity.
Spoiler Free Thoughts
We're fascinated in the
tragedies of famous people, not because it makes them different, but because it makes them more like us. We all face old age, disease and dying. And when someone famous faces it, it reminds us that for all the wealth and power, they are no more immune to life's dark side than us.
Elvis has held a special fascination for many. Turned into a living caricature of the man he was by his promoters and even himself during his lifetime, and turned into the new messiah by many after his death, his example is the guidebook for a life of promise gone terribly wrong.
In this film, we get to witness a different Elvis - a real Elvis. Here's a man, convincingly portrayed by
Bruce Campbell, who's just like you and me. By turning his back on his fame and swapping places with an Elvis impersonator long ago, he accepted a life more ordinary. And in doing so, we get to see how he handles a fate similar to ours - at least those of us who avoid drunk drivers and power tool accidents long enough.
Bruce Campbell does a marvelous job as Elvis, portraying him with depth and emotion, and never appeared cartoony or silly. He pulls off some pretty corny lines with smooth style, and there's little doubt in your mind that yes, this really is Elvis. While no proof is ever provided, it's through Campbell's portrayal that you come to believe that this is the real Elvis.
Ozzie Davis rounds out the main characters, playing an old black man who believes he's JFK, hidden away as part of an intricate plot by Castro and Lyndon Johnson. While
this premise is far more bizarre than Elvis surviving, you find that it doesn't really matter. Is he JFK? No, you're 90% sure he's not - but they manage to leave a little doubt, plant the most simple of seeds, and let you believe what ever you'd like. Because in the end, whether he is JFK, and whether Elvis is really Elvis, doesn't matter. They are two old men, shut up and forgotten by the world, but still with some fight left in them.
And fight they do, as the title character begins sucking the life out of the other residents. As I said, this isn't really a horror movie, and the scenes with the mummy are merely there to provide conflict. This isn't a comedy either, although from the general premise you might expect it to be. Sure, there are a few laugh out loud moments, but the finest parts of the film revolve around Elvis examining his life, and the lives of those around him, through flashbacks and internal dialog.
The questions asked are the basic ones - what's the point? Does anything really matter? And what the hell is that thing? It's not a deep look at these questions, but a simple one, easy to understand and even easier to enjoy.
Chris Ryall at Movie Poop Shoot did a great column on this film last week, and made a terrific observation. This film is the first time in a long time in which Elvis was portrayed with dignity, and humanity. If you think it sounds like an odd idea, you'd be right. But it's an odd idea that works beautifully.
Rating - Buy It.
Plop down the twenty bucks and keep this one around. It's something you can show to your friends that aren't quite as hip as you are, and don't know about these fancy 'limited release' flicks. You'll enjoy, they'll enjoy it, and if you're a big Elvis fan, it's a must see.
Spoiler Laden Thoughts
There's nothing to note here - but you may find there's plenty to
discuss after watching it.