Bubba Ho-Tep (***1/2)

(2002) Don Coscarelli – with Bruce Campbell as Elvis, Ossie Davis as JFK, Bob Ivy as Bubba Ho-tep (not that you’d know), Larry Pennell as Kemosabe; also starring Ella Joyce, Heidi Marnhout, and Daniels Roebuck and Schweiger as incompetent Hearse Drivers

Synopsis: ‘Bubba Ho-Tep’ finds Elvis resting in a nursing home in Mud Creek, Texas, alongside various other senescent oddballs (including Ossie Davis’ character, who’s convinced he is JFK). The story is, somewhere along the line Elvis tired of his act—he didn’t feel like “himself” when he performed—and decided to switch places with an Elvis impersonator. Fate conspired against him, and after a massive grilling accident (in which his contract with the impersonator was destroyed) and the death of his impersonator/public face, he eventually wound up in a rest home. In, of all places, Mud Creek, TX. Is he bitter? Yeah, sure. But then Jack, a fellow retirement home ambler, brings his attention to a terrible evil plaguing the home—what evil turns out to be a “soul-sucking” mummy. Which inevitably leads to JFK and Elvis facing off against the evil mummy.

Review: Take Bruce Campbell and put him in a movie that involves JFK, Elvis, and a mummy (an evil mummy, that is), and you’re basically guaranteed to have yourself an instant cult classic. The special-effects aren’t exactly believable, but neither is the story, so everything pretty well balances out. It’s a quirky, campy, funny movie that manages, more often than not (but not always) to evoke the right response from the audience: pity, ambivalence, muted horror, and so on. Bruce Campbell is almost unrecognizable as an older Elvis, and does a bang-up job; the absurdity of the story notwithstanding, you almost believe it really is Elvis, bedridden in Mud Creek, Texas. You never really believe Ossie Davis is JFK, but then again, neither does Elvis. But he’s a nice guy. Still, there are some straightforward jokes that you’d expect a cultish film like this to avoid, and there are parts where the movie as a whole lags behind, either slow or badly paced or unintentionally awkward. Despite which it’s still a fun movie.

Rating: [•••½] out of [•••••]

Elvis: Uh, Mr. President… You’re on the floor.
JFK: No shit?