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PCR # 192  (Vol. 4, No. 48)  This edition is for the week of November 24--30, 2003.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review

Movie review by:
ED Tucker

Four stars

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

theater seats

The History of Aviation in Florida Part Two: 1920-1941 - The First World War Gives Way to the Roaring Twenties
 by Will Moriaty
"The Cat In The Hat"
"The Haunted Mansion"
 by Mike Smith
"Bubba-Ho-Tep"  by ED Tucker
Another List....Give This Man A Prize....Remembering The Past....Movie Notes....Moving On
 by Mike Smith
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SilverSphere Corp.     
Starring: Bruce Campbell, Ossie Davis
Directed by: Don Coscarelli
Rated: Not rated
Running Time: 1 hour 32 mins

Please note: The following review has been formatted to the PCR ratings standards and does contain a minimal amount of SPOILERS.

Bubba-Ho-TepWhat happens when you put the director of the Phantasm film series together with the star of the Evil Dead film series, throw in a highly respected master thespian, and a mummy? The answer is Bubba Ho-Tep, one of the most original films to pop up in the modern wasteland of cookie-cutter cinema in a long time.

What is the film about? Well, the superficial answer is Elvis vs. a mummy, but once you get below the surface of that comic book premise, you realize the story is about a whole lot more. Don Coscarelli’s new film, based on short story by Joe R. Lansdale, is a tale of aging, mortality, making mistakes, finding purpose, and, above all, redemption.

As the film opens, we find a man claiming to be a 65-year-old Elvis Presley (Bruce Campbell in what may be the best of many good roles) counting down the end of his days in the Mud Creek Rest Home in East Texas. It seems that sometime in the mid 1970’s, Elvis grew tired of being the King of rock and roll and traded places with a leading Elvis impersonator named Sebastian Half. The switch was so secretive that not even Elvis’s closest confidants were in on it. The plan worked great except for two minor setbacks. First, the contract Elvis had signed as safety net was lost in a trailer park fire and second, Elvis traded places with one of the few people in the world who liked liquor and pills more than he did! So it comes to pass that the Elvis impersonator is really the one who died on the can in 1977 and the real Elvis, now homeless, hits the road to impersonate himself for a living. Things go well until the fateful, hip breaking, stage accident that ultimately lands Elvis in a bottom tier home for those in need of assisted living. Elvis has committed himself to a slow death while keeping entertained with flashbacks and musings on what could have been until his morbid funk is abruptly broken by the mysterious deaths of several of his fellow residents.

As Elvis finds a new purpose in life by unraveling this mystery, he also finds an ally in the only other resident who will believe him. Unfortunately, this resident (Ossie Davis), an African-American, also happens to believe that he is John Fitzgerald Kennedy! It seems that after his “attempted” assassination, Kennedy’s brain was put in a jar somewhere in the White House and replaced in his body by a bag of sand and some electrodes to keep the two in touch. After being dyed black to keep anyone from recognizing him, he is put out to pasture where he can do no harm and no one will take him seriously.

This film may give us one of the oddest partnerships in cinematic history but it pushes the envelope even further by throwing in a soul-stealing mummy with a penchant for cowboy attire! The so-called Bubba Ho-Tep, as Elvis likes to refer to him, has stumbled upon a seemingly limitless supply of fresh souls, weak though they may be, in the rest home residents. As JFK reasons, the people in the home are there because society is expecting them to die so no one blinks an eye when the elderly residents start turning up dead without a mark on them. Now it is up to the only two people who truly understand what is going on to save not only their own souls, but those of everyone else at the home as well.

Bubba Ho-Tep is a rich and delightful film filled with some great performances. In addition to the excellent Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis, Coscarelli perennial Reggie Bannister also turns up in a cameo as the unconcerned manager of the rest home. The rest of the cast is peppered with eccentric portrayals, including a resident who dresses like the Lone Ranger and is, appropriately, referred to as “Kemosabe”! The mixture of humor, both broad and subtle, with a horror subtext and off-kilter characters makes for a unique and refreshing experience. The final showdown is both touching and thrilling as it makes you really wonder if these two senile soldiers have enough left in them to pull off the monumental task at hand.

This is the type of movie that most people will either love or hate. If you like to think for yourself and draw your own conclusions, this is a film for you. If you like to have the plot of a movie spoon fed to you in bite sized pieces and then beaten to death in multiple reiterations (think Oliver Stone) then I advise you to steer clear. BHT leaves it up to the viewer to decide if the characters really are who they claim to be and ultimately it doesn’t matter. The important part is that they believe it and they make the audience want to believe them. In a touching scene leading into the final battle, Kennedy tells Elvis that they both could have done a better job of raising their respective children but they did the best they could and in the end that’s what really counts.

The sad part about this is that as wonderful as this film is, it probably won’t be coming to a theater near you any time soon. After failing to secure a distributor, the film has been put into a limited release in only certain venues across the US. Right now it is playing in only twenty-five theaters in the whole country (two of which are in Florida, one in Tampa and one where I saw it, in Gainesville). In a time when cinematic excrement like Charlie’s Angels 2 or Corky Romano can get released nation-wide, I think it speaks volumes that a film as fresh and innovative as Bubba Ho-Tep gets passed over. This is a film that deserves the big screen and I commend Don Coscarelli for distributing it himself rather than taking the coward’s way out direct to video. You can find out more about the release schedule by going to www.bubbahotep.com and be sure to call your local mall google-plex theater and tell them Matrix: Revolutions can get by on only eight screens so Bubba Ho-Tep can have number nine.

I don’t give out four-star ratings very lightly so catch this one if you can.  Four stars

This week's movie review of "Bubba-Ho-Tep" is ©2003 by ED Tucker.  All graphics this page (except movie poster) are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2003, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2003 by Nolan B. Canova.