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Bubba Ho-tep (2003)
Rated R

Starring: Bruce Campbell, Ossie Davis, and Bob Ivy

Rating:
****
out of
*****

Elvis and JFK are alive. It's true. They're holed up in a rest home in Mud Creek, Texas. Not only that, but they've discovered a mummy that is preying on the souls of their fellow residents.

Although it sounds like something a drunken conspiracy buff would make up while he's on a six-day bender, it's the plot of Bubba Ho-tep, a film from Don Coscarelli, who's previous work includes Phantasm and The Beastmaster. Working from a story by Joe R. Lansdale, Coscarelli creates an off-beat but somehow endearing tale of two American legends fighting death figuratively and literally.

Elvis (Bruce Campbell) switched places with an impersonator before he "died." Since the contract that allowed him to switch back was destroyed in a barbequing accident, Elvis has lived a life of obscurity in Mud Creek's Shady Rest Home. Fellow resident Jack (Ossie Davis) believes he is John F. Kennedy. According to Jack, he was dyed black following the assassination attempt in Dallas and had a bag of sand placed in his head where his brain used to be. He now spends his time researching the conspiracy theories to figure out who tried to kill him. (Although, he believes that his real brain in Washington, D.C. beaming thoughts to him from a transmitter.)

These two American icons are not in the best of shape. Elvis needs a walker to get around and JFK uses a powered wheelchair for long trips. When it's discovered that an Egyptian mummy -- or "soul sucker" -- is prowling the premises and feeding on their friends, the mission to stop it gives both men something to live for again.

It should be pretty obvious that Bubba Ho-tep is playing for laughs, but it's not full of the type of crazy, laugh-out-loud humor you might expect in a film like this. (Although the movie certainly has a few of those moments.) No, believe it or not, Bubba Ho-tep is a relatively sweet-natured film when it deals with the neglect of senior citizens and the fate of the now-humble Elvis. Seeing Elvis confront the daughter of a recently deceased roommate about why she never visited her father in three years is actually very touching.

In all honesty, the mummy story is the least interesting and least successful part of the film. Seeing Elvis and JFK interact with each other and deal with their individual situations is much more interesting and fun. The mummy kind of intrudes on things and spoils the fun for the viewer almost as much as he does for the residents of Shady Rest. I say almost as much because the film still remains enjoyable once the mummy becomes the focal point, just a little less so.

Even so, Bruce Campbell delivers the best performance of his career. Yes, even topping his work in the Evil Dead series. Campbell is the most underrated and underutilized leading man in acting today. He's perfect as the aging Elvis. Absolutely perfect.

If you're interested in seeing a quirky film that's definitely not like anything else you've seen this year, check out Bubba Ho-tep. If you're a Bruce Campbell fan and haven't seen the film yet, do so now. This is definitely Campbell's film and worth seeing solely because of him, whether you're a fan or not.

Trivia: Only six prints of the film were originally made, causing its extremely limited and on-going release schedule. The Soul of Southern Film Festival, in Memphis, Tennessee, paid for a seventh print, so that they wouldn't have to wait another year to show the film. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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