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My Name Is Bruce

(2008) ** 1/2 R
86 min. Dark Horse Entertainment, Image Entertainment. Director: Bruce Campbell. Cast: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Ted Raimi, James Peck, Ben McCain (II).

/content/films/3315/2.jpgBest Picture contender Frost/Nixon hinges on the line, "When the President does it, it's not illegal." Watching the B-movie extravaganza My Name Is Bruce, I couldn't help but think, “When Bruce Campbell does it, it’s not overacting.” Campbell plays B-movie actor "Bruce Campbell" in this latest goofy riff on his unique brand of stardom. Having already written an autobiography (If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor) and a mock-autobiographical novel (Make Love!* *the Bruce Campbell Way) in which Campbell gets hired, diasterously, to appear in an A-list picture with Richard Gere and Renée Zellweger, Campbell now directs a self-referential horror comedy. My Name Is Bruce poses and answers two questions: what if a remote town needed a hero to confront a supernatural demon? Who would they call? The star of the Evil Dead movies, of course, and he'd be in way over his head.

My Name Is Bruce had me at “In the mining town of Gold Lick...”, words in the Andy Griffith-esque ballad "The Legend of Guan-Di," performed by folk-singers the McCain Brothers. The movie lost me later, got me back, and lost me again. It's that kind of movie. But it's most definitely a love letter to Campbell fans, who will be more inclined to overlook its flaws. Guan-Di, the bean-curd loving god of war, is awakened by wanton teens and begins a murderous rampage. One of the teens, Jeff (Taylor Sharpe) is a huge Bruce Campbell fan, so it's off to Campbell's trailer park, where Jeff kidnaps the star and stuffs him in the trunk of a car (Campbell: “Oh my God. He’s a fan. It finally happened").

Though Jeff calls Bruce "the greatest actor of his generation,” the fatuous actor is used to starring in movies that can be described as ""very Caligula meets The Apple Dumpling Gang," and it's beginning to get to him (“I think I’m losing my muse”). At first, he's ticked to be hauled to hickville: "What you just did, you just kidnapped a movie star. You got that? So you just didn't commit a crime against me, which was pretty huge - you committed a crime against art itself!", but there's no denying the attention is flattering. Thinking he's playing along, Campbell does what he does best: pretending he's ready for action and gunplay. Naturally, the bravado turns into sissy-boy retreat when carnage breaks out again in Gold Lick.

Campbell and screenwriter Mark Verheiden have a lot of fun name-checking real (Maniac Cop, Alien Apocalypse) and fake (Death of the Dead, Moonwarp, Cavealien) Campbell titles. Campbell confederate Ted Raimi (yes, Sam's brother) turns up as Campbell's slimy agent, a 78-year-old Chinese man (a la Keye Luke in Gremlins), and an Italian sign painter, and Ellen Sandweiss of Evil Dead plays Bruce's ex-wife Cheryl. It's all very Evil Dead meets the Three Stooges. Unfortunately, My Name Is Bruce sometimes crosses over from camp to just bad. It grows tired the second it starts taking itself even remotely seriously as an adventure or romance (with Grace Thorsen's Kelly).

Still, it's all about Campbell, a limber linguist whose verbal sense seems straight out of the '40s, and a game physical comic (his Lost Weekend-esque binge is a highlight). Heck, it's hard to dislike a picture where an undead Chinese god encounters a soccer mom and her bean-curd-eating boy named Skippy. By the usual standards, My Name Is Bruce is pretty bad, but in a way, we'd be disappointed if it wasn't.

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Aspect ratios: 1.78:1

Number of discs: 1

Audio: DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, Dolby DIgital 5.1

Street date: 2/10/2009

Distributor: Image Entertainment

Image's Blu-ray Disc of My Name is Bruce has a problematic transfer, but otherwise is catnip for Bruce Campbell fans. The picture quality isn't all bad: for the most part, it's a sturdy transfer of an admittedly fast, dirty and cheap production, shot on HD. But there are moments—particularly in low light—that succumb to very obvious video noise (ye olde macroblocking). The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack has no such obvious flaws, but presents the dialogue with clarity along with some solid surround effects.

Bonus features are where it's at on this disc, beginning with an amiable and witty commentary with director/producer/actor Bruce Campbell and producer Mike Richardson.

The tongue-in-cheek making-of Heart of Dorkness (1:00:02, SD) has the feel of a family and friends affair. The film gives a very real sense of what the set was like, and details some of the maddening challenges of low-budget filmmaking (like getting used cars to start). Participants include Campbell, Richardson, writer Mark Verheiden, gaffer Spike Simms, Danny Hicks, Tim Quill, Ellen Sandweiss, Ted Raimi, Ben & Butch McCain, Mike Campbell, Colin Campbell, Vincent "Ang" Angelinni, DP Kurt Rauf, special effects make-up woman Melanie "Mel" Tooker, associate producer Craig "Kif" Sanborn, Heart of Dorkness director Mike Kallio, Heart of Dorkness DP Mark Elliott, Grace Thorsen, Taylor Sharpe, Jamie Peck, Janelle Farber, Land Mine Productions owner John Foote, camera operator Mark Karavite, Ali Akay, sound utility guy Paul Harris, production assistants Jackson Rowe and Aaron Allen, special effects coordinator Bill Boggs, and key grip Gary "7Ft." Sauer.

"Awkward Moments with 'Kif'" (1:59, SD) makes a celebrity of associate producer Sanborn.

"Waxing Philosophical with Bruce" (4:06, SD) captures stolen moments with Campbell on set, humorously pontificating on several subjects.

"'Cavealien 2' Trailer" (1:42, SD) and the mini-mockumentary "Beyond Inside the Cave: The Making of 'Cavealien 2'" (8:02, SD) expound upon the movie-within-the-movie.

"'Kif's' Corner" (2:44, SD) finds Sanborn explaining his graphic design work, followed by a montage of in-joke poster art. We also get a Poster Art Gallery, Props Art Gallery, and b.

"The Hard Truth" (3:52, SD) is a jokingly unflattering series of interview clips about Campbell.

"Love Birds" (1:07, SD) is a ridiculous goof on Gold Lick's gay couple.

Lstly, we get the "My Name is Bruce Trailer" (2:19, HD).

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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