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A. Michael Baldwin,
Based on the Bram Stoker Award nominee short story by cult author Joe R. Lansdale, Bubba Ho-tep tells the "true" story of what really did become of Elvis Presley. We find Elvis (Bruce Campbell) as an elderly resident in an East Texas rest home, who switched identities with an Elvis impersonator years before his "death", then missed his chance to switch back. Elvis teams up with Jack (Ossie Davis), a fellow nursing home resident who thinks that he is actually President John F. Kennedy, and the two valiant old codgers sally forth to battle an evil Egyptian entity who has chosen their long-term care facility as his happy hunting grounds. Written by
I'd heard that when the end credits rolled for 'Bubba Ho-Tep' during the premiere in Detroit, there was a five minute standing ovation. Having seen the movie, I have to honestly say a five minute ovation seems not long enough. What a film! Other reviewers have called this film, "excellent," "fantastic," "wonderful," etc. While I won't question the reviewers' choice of words, I'm not sure the they're sufficient to describe just what an experience 'Bubba Ho-Tep' is.
"Superlative" probably comes closest.
So what exactly IS 'Bubba Ho-Tep?' Take your pick of one or all: Drama. Horror. Comedy. Tear Jerker. Life Lesson.
'Bubba' not only succeeds in each genre, but excels. Lesser movies have attempted to be jack-of-all-trades, but usually fall far short of one goal. One movie may be hilarious at its core, but preachy in the moral lesson. Another could be a fantastic horror film, but the creature ends up as more interesting and sympathetic than it's human co-stars. Yet another movie can teach a valuable lesson on life, but leave you depressed as you're exiting the theater.
'Bubba' succeeds where others have failed.
Enough praise can not be heaped on Bruce Campbell for his utterly believable performance as Presley. Even the hokeyness of Elvis threatening the mummy with his karate "stuff" was never over the top, as one could OH so see Elvis doing that! Campbell offers an amazing view into Presley's soul. Here lies a man upset with his lot in life, wanting to get away from the limelight yet craving it at the same time. A man wishing for the best but accepting of the worst. A man ready to shake off his failures and embracing his desire to be what he's always wanted to be - a hero. His finest line: "Always the questions, never the answers. Always the hopes, never the fulfillments." Sound familiar?
And how can one go wrong with Ossie Davis, who adds an aristocratic touch of humanity and sympathy as Jack Kennedy. IS he the President? Hey, stranger stories than his have been told! Best line: "It's now up to you, Elvis. You got to get him... You got to... take care of business." I challenge you to still have a dry eye after that.
The accolades should not stop here, however. Director Don Coscarelli didn't just write and direct 'Bubba,' he crafted it. With love, and with the finest attentions to detail, fit and finish. More so, he was faithful to Joe Lansdale's original story. (Which is a tribute to Coscarelli, as most mainstream Hollywood movies would have mangled the source material into something unrecognizable from what it once was.) The supporting cast was as fine as could be had. Pay special attention to Ella Joyce as the nurse. Though her character is meant to be cold and uncaring, Joyce still manages to sneak glimpses of humanity into the performance. One could see the nurse as someone who once had and still wants to care, but has become so desensitized that caring for her charges has all but dissipated. And who can forget the score? Talk about a custom fit between movie and music!
All in all, it is a crime that 'Bubba Ho-Tep' did not get greater exposure. More of a crime is a lack of Campbell's recognition by mainstream Hollywood for his outstanding turn as Elvis. (Then again, one gets the refreshing impression that Campbell gladly accepts this shun.)
Just as William Hurt's outstanding movie 'The Doctor' should be a prerequisite for any prospective medical student, 'Bubba Ho-Tep' should be required viewing for anyone who wants an uplifting, thoughtful, humorous, scary, and just plain great movie!
10 out of 10, no question, ifs ands or buts.
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