Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)

“Thank you. Thank you very much.”

PoolMan’s Rating: Well for the love of crap.

PoolMan’s Review: There was a thread in our forum dedicated to movies that our readers want us to review. I know it doesn’t seem like it, but we actually did keep our collective eye on it (all hail the MRFH Collective Eye!). There seems to be some weird electronic problem that keeps translating “Brazil” as “The Care Bears Movie” on Justin’s computer, which always sends him barreling down the halls, yelling “But I’ve already reviewed that!” at least twice daily, but that’s neither here nor there.

Let’s see. What else is always on The List? Shaolin Soccer. Boondock Saints. Meet the Feebles? It’s not like we’re not aware of these things, people! It’s just that we have a lot of lounging around to do! But in the spirit of pleasing the common folk (that would be you), I caught wind that one of the most regularly requested (and incidentally, toughest to see) flicks on the list happened to be playing at my very favourite theater downtown, and I just couldn’t pass it up. I was going to see Bubba Ho-Tep.

I’ve never wanted a time machine so bad.

That way, I could go back in time to last night, and yell at myself “Please, PoolMan, don’t go see that movie. Please? Pretty please? For the sake of our mutual IQ, which is undoubtedly already less than Rich’s Big N’ Beefy British 150?”. Then I’d probably go back to about 1995, give myself a few stock tips, and watch the easy retirement roll in. Without the memory of this movie.

I should say, I’m a big fan of Bruce Campbell. A big fan. I love the Evil Dead movies, I sat all the way through Moontrap (for which he still owes me five bucks, I might add), I thrilled to his cameo in Spider-Man, and (God help me) I even watched a few episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess in the hopes of seeing Autolycus (I swear it wasn’t for the tight leather outfits!). It’s not like I can’t appreciate Bruce’s unique film career and choice of roles. And while he’s actually pretty good in Bubba Ho-Tep, the movie itself is just a stinkfest.

A quick overview is in order: Elvis, as it turns out, isn’t dead. He switched places with a particularly gifted Elvis impersonator years ago, and that’s the man who died as The King. Elvis lives out his days as an impersonator himself, before breaking his hip and ending up in a crappy rest home. His best friend in the home is an elderly black man who believes he’s JFK. Together, they discover that a minor mummy has descended upon their little residence, intent on stealing helpless souls, and our aged heroes take up arms against it.

Now I ask you, does that not SOUND like a surefire Mutant Favourite? Doesn’t that seem like something that I’d be quoting for years to come, giggling quietly to myself as my poor fiancée once again comes the realization that she has no idea why I find these things so funny? You’d sure think so.

Instead, Bubba Ho-Tep is boring, long winded, and depressing. How can this be? At 1 hour 25 minutes, it drags like nobody’s business. The action shots consists of not one, not two, but THREE characters (Elvis, JFK, and the mummy) whose top speed is 2 miles an hour. I mean, one’s got a busted hip and a walker, one’s in a wheelchair, and one is a classic, shuffling mummy. They could have at least doubled the playback speed.

But the scenes between the action? Oh man. Do you like the thought of watching overweight, gray Elvis lie on his back, humourlessly musing on his empty life, and nursing the “growth on [his] pecker”? Cause it’s all you’re gonna get. Long diatribes over and over again about how he wished he could see Priscilla one last time. Wan, longing looks out the window as his roommates die. Long monologues about the fleeting nature of fame. I mean, this is Bruce frickin’ Campbell! A little humour, please? A little action? Campbell’s Elvis impression is actually really good (and Ossie Davis’ performance as JFK is cute), but is it really enough?

Basically, I got the impression that the movie is trying to be a cult classic. And as any astute movie fan will tell you, you just can’t do that. True cult happens by accident. You can make a film with all the love, low budget, and B-grade actors you want, but if you are actively trying to make a cult flick, you will fail. Only time will tell whether I’m right in this regard. At this point, it’s certainly nearly there, but I suspect that’s because it’s so hard to frigging see (see the Intermission below), not because it’s all that great.

There are a handful of fun moments in Bubba Ho-Tep, particularly as the two main characters start to really accept each other’s perceived identities. But it wasn’t enough to keep me from checking my watch every five minutes towards the end of the film in the hopes that it would end soon. I noticed it’s based on a short story, and I could see how that would be great, maybe even worth checking out, but as a film, ugh. It’s got the pedigree of a cult classic, but personally, I don’t care if I never see it again.

Justin’s Rating: On the forums, I challenged the readers and staff to provide me with a list of… interesting… words to have to work into a review. This is that review. Can you guess which were the words I was forced to include?

Justin’s Review: Some days when I pass PoolMan’s office and he’s knitting yet another pair of galoshes for his imaginary cat (“Poochikins”), I know well enough to just keep on walking. Those days are not for visiting, because when he’s in that mode, he’ll just suck you into his domain and force you to sit at his feet while he cranks on about all of the problems of the world, including every single movie that’s let him down. Such as, all of them. He’s quite the fussbudget.

Ah, but on the good days, our positions are reversed, and I’m the snarky one while he can only see merry sunshine and rosy apples in everything he views. “Stealth? Best freakin’ movie of the YEAR!” he’s been known to shout out on his way to the Official MRFH Kiosk of Catharsis. I’m glad we built that kiosk. Constructed in the baroque style, it overlooks Lake Kym and all of the sailboats gliding merrily along on their waterplane. If nothing else, it gets some of us out of the office so the rest of us can actually get some work done.

Pooly must’ve been in one of his inebriated states when he reviewed Bubba Ho-Tep, because he and I differ greatly as to the verisimilitude of the flick. Yet, in all of my infinite mercy and compassion, I can forgive his erroneous nature and even concede that Bubba ain’t what you’d expect, nor will it be everyone’s cup of Ensure.

Bubba Ho-Tep brings up a cacophony of feelings when you watch it. The tale of an ancient butt-sucking mummy (his method for extracting the souls of the elderly) preying on the nursing home where one aged Elvis resides deliberately sets up an antagonistic environment for the viewer. It’s not an overly funny movie, nor one where fans of Army of Darkness will get to see Bruce Campbell suddenly whip out a chainsaw and bring on the hurt. Nope, instead we are treated to the inherent ickiness that nursing home environments create, an Elvis who muses wistfully for days long gone and an excrescence on his little Elvis, and a slow story that deliberately plods along as if it’s using a walker.

So, is Pooly right in calling it as he saw it: long, boring and pointless? Should we just defenestrate the DVD right now and be done with it? Or is there something more that deserves attention?

Just to spit into the wind and fart in his general direction, I’m going to side on the “liking” crowd for Ho-Tep. I’m not just doing it to be a pill, either – once I got in tune with Ho-Tep’s dark humor, everything got a bit brighter for me.

Bubba Ho-Tep is all about dry wit and black comedy. The funniest things about the movie are often some of the most understated, such as an “adventure” where Elvis and JFK travel to… a bathroom! And see… hieroglyphics on the stall wall! And ponder that the mummy must’ve written them while he was crapping out the remnants of souls. Whew, forget Indiana Jones, we’ve got a new name in adventure here!

Not quite what you see in most Hillary Duff-esque movies these days.

The past-prime Elvis gets a heaping of sardonic personality from Campbell, who doesn’t go overboard with the part but obviously relishes playing a cranky old fart battling a nasty beetle and a grumpy mummy. Most of the humor that the director was aiming for comes from the ridiculous situations that are treated straight-up by the characters, whether it be the earnest explanations of Ozzy Davis about the mummy’s actions or Elvis using a runaway wheelchair to make his movie on the bad guy.

In the end, Bubba Ho-Tep makes a successful bunt instead of a power hit into right field, but it gets its player on first nonetheless. It’s an enjoyable oddity for anyone who’s not PoolMan to partake of at least once in their life before they end up in a home like this and are unable to process “irony” and “fiber” in their diets. In one’s life, one can gerrymander ‘till the cows come home to vote for the right brand of milk (1%), but only Elvis’ say as the real king counts. Hail to the Bubba, baby.

One comment

  1. Oh man, remember the nursing home Elvis meme? I went with that guy a loooong time ago and he never got over me breaking up with him. He is a covert narcissist who thinks he really is Elvis. I based my character Robbie Hurlbutt off him, Robbie Rotten, Jim Jones and Roy Batty.

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