Jarv’s Schlock Vault: My Name is Bruce
“You know Jeff, I’ve gotten a lot of use out of chainsaws over the years. Killed a lot a zombies, saved a lot of lives, but at the end of the day when push comes to shove… they’re just too damn heavy.”
Jarv’s Rating: 2.5 Changs out of 4
It’s very hard to dislike Bruce Campbell. Sure he may star in a lot of crap (a hideous amount of crap, to be honest), but he seems to have a real sense of humour about himself. Everyone loves the Evil Dead trilogy, and most people like Bubba Ho-Tep, but even the hardiest chin-o-phile struggles to find anything good to say about some of his howlers.
My Name is Bruce is fun. It’s never going to win any awards (aside from Best Chin), and it isn’t likely to go down as one of the greatest films ever made, but it is a highly enjoyable piece of schlock- and the reason that it is enjoyable is that The Chin approaches this little film with great gusto, turning in a bravura comic performance and spares no energy in making himself look as ridiculous as possible.
This spoof is directed by The Chin himself, (he also produced) and really is an affectionate parody of B-movies and the strange cult of Bruce- who has to come to the rescue of the town of Gold Lick which is being terrorised by Guan Di an ancient Chinese spirit and patron saint of bean curd. Bruce, however, is a moron, and thinks this is a birthday present from his agent. So he plays along and leads the townsfolk into battle before shitting it and running for the hills. Obviously he returns to save the day, sort of, but that’s the film in a nutshell.
This is a very, very simple film- straightforward really doesn’t cover how one-tracked it is- and I think that this simplicity actually helps the film, as it trims it from all extraneous distractions and allows the film to do what it really wants to do: take the piss out of Bruce and his fans.
Bruce is magnificent here. This is probably his best performance outside of Bubba Ho-Tep since Ash. He gets to run the whole range of his comic acting, fat, sleazy and obnoxious with some great physical moments. Bruce the character is a hugely unlikable asshole. He’s cowardly, bitter and selfish, eaten up by self-hatred, a degenerate alcoholic and sex maniac. Bruce seems to be loving this- he’s rude to fans, keeps calling his ex-wife when drunk, treats people on the set of his laughably bad Cavealien film like shit, and (in the funniest sequence in the film) drinks whiskey out of his dog’s bowl. Bruce the actor performs this with some relish. He’s having fun.
He gets good support from the other actors, particularly Grace Thorson, Taylor Sharpe and Ted Raimi (in about 5 roles), but really, this is the Bruce show and they know it, so they are supporting the lead rather than having equal billing.
The script is deliberately hilarious, and unsurprisingly, Bruce gets all the best lines (aside from the singing hooker’s admission that she’s also a pre-op tranny). It’s also stuffed full of references to Bruce’s oeuvre, such as the brilliant “You’re exempt from my wrath, sweetcakes and if you’re lucky, later I’ll let you play with my boomstick” . This is an intentionally funny film.
Unfortunately, and it does pain me to say this, but the last third of it is crap. The essential problem is that it’s a one joke film, and although it’s only 84 minutes long, it feels like that’s 20 minutes too long. Up to Bruce’s return to Gold Lick, it’s wonderful fun. Unfortunately, when he returns to fight Guan Di the film comes to a jarring juddering halt. We totally buy Bruce the asshole, but I didn’t buy Bruce the hero. The end sequence which is stuffed full of postmodernism is little more than annoying, and almost painfully unfunny.
Still, there’s plenty to like here- from the clever references to the equally clever deliberate mistakes (Moontrap and Mindwarp are frequently conjoined into “Moonwarp”) and Bruce is such a great physical comic that the last 20 minutes aren’t enough to render the film a complete failure, and certainly not enough to mar any memories of the fun first hour.
Overall, I would recommend My Name is Bruce. I’ve got a variety of reasons for this, but at the end of the day this is a fun little film that’s got that most intangible of assets: heart. It’s affectionate, amusing and a highly entertaining way to spend some time- even though nobody is going to be quoting it in 20 years time.
While My Name is Bruce isn’t exactly a Hail to the King movie, being instead a “Hail to the fat sleazebag” film, it’s celebratory and amusing and more than worthy of a place at the better end of the spectrum of The Chin’s filmography. It’s certainly better than The Man with the Screaming Brain.
And I am quite looking forward to the sequel
Until next time,