Blu-ray Review: My Name is Bruce (2007)

Bruce Saves the Day
On 2/10/09

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Running a close second to counting the number of times Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) begins a narrative voice-over on USA Network's Burn Notice with the phrase, "When you're a spy, you..."-- (seriously, it could be a drinking game if one was inclined)-- actor Bruce Campbell is the funniest part of basic cable's highest rated series.

Although, I must admit that-- much like the films of Bruce Campbell-- I can probably count the number of episodes I've seen in their entirety on one hand since I'm always waist deep in DVDs, Blu-rays, and film screeners. However, given only a precious few quick seconds of screen time, you'll manage to see that he uses that same over-the-top Rio Bravo era John Wayne and Dean Martin meets latter-era Seinfeld Patrick Warburton styled charm and milks it for all its worth to winning effect that has garnered him fanboy cult worship for decades.

As the ultimate Campbell-phile, Jack Black stated in High Fidelity when going over a hypothetical statement with lovelorn John Cusack-- the answer to the statement of "I haven't seen Evil Dead 2 yet" is for Black to "say you were a cinematic idiot and I'd feel sorry for you."

To Campbell junkies like Jeffrey (Taylor Sharpe), the poster child of socially awkward fanboys everywhere, in Campbell's latest opus My Name is Bruce, "Bruce Campbell is the greatest actor of his generation." Instead of the WWJD bracelet, Jeffrey's mantra seems to be, "What would Bruce Campbell do?" nearly ousting his best friend Clayton from a moving car for dissing the man's B-movie career with the warning, "You don't like Bruce; you walk," and seconding that distinction with the disclaimer that "Everyone likes Bubba Ho-tep."

Now, it's probably at this point where I have to confess that not only have I never seen Bubba-Ho-tep, I'm not 100% sure I've even seen Evil Dead 2, although I know I caught at least some of the Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell films in a high school friend's basement as he was always trying to steer me away from Francois Truffaut and Woody Allen to the pleasures of B-movie gore.

Yet, as a huge fan of martial arts movies that I could watch for days-- I'm no cinematic elitist and, having always been charmed by Campbell-- My Name is Bruce seemed like an ideal place to start, despite the warnings of some other film critics who were adamant in their warnings to the contrary.

In the film, he parodies the man, the myth, the Campbell by playing the absolute worst version of himself. In My Name is Bruce, "our" version of Bruce Campbell is as the uncouth actor who stars in the trashiest films known to man, meets his apathetic agent in a sleazy skin bar, lives in a trailer, gets drunk off the liquor he feeds his dog and then dials his ex-wife, managing to deliver the killer line, "can't a guy get bombed and call his ex-wife at three in the morning without it meaning something?" And the best part of it is-- for half a moment of hilarious illogic, we agree with him-- until that is, he moves on to say he misses the nonexistent kids he would've had had he not slept with twelve other people during their marriage.

Constantly hounded by fanboys he hands old photos to and not above sending an insistent middle aged man in a wheelchair careening backwards a la Kiss of Death, Campbell-- who's told on set that his performance is very "Caligula meets The Apple Dumpling Gang," is so easily replaced on set that when he gets kidnapped by Jeffrey to help save his town from an unleashed Chinese God of War, the director simply tosses in a Bruce sized dummy to fill in for the fight scenes.

While admittedly the movie walks a thin line between self-deprecating parody and narcissistic self-obsession since unfortunately despite the eighty-four minute running time, it feels as though it loses the "funny" about midway through when it goes all action horror film on viewers' asses to extremely, extremely weak effect as the villain protects bean curd as well, town gun shop owners quote Brokeback Mountain and Asians will gasp in a stereotypical portrayal of an Asian in the vein of Breakfast At Tiffany's Mickey Rooney.

Still, despite its faults along with an over-reliance on juvenile jokes early on, Campbell's Evil Dead styled one-liners and the running gag that he mistakes the kidnapping for a birthday prank, going along on the mission to take down a War God as though it were all one big PR stunt crafted by his agent works very well.

It's no Hot Fuzz but it's bolstered by some of the film's folksy small town characters including a great far-too-brief character Luigi the sign-painter who constantly has to change the population when the War God Guan-di begins slashing the residents of the mining community of Gold Lick.

While in the film, director and actor Campbell poke fun at what it's like to live "just another day in the life of a hero" and thankfully all involved its B-movie roots knew when to say when (as the "gag" within reality combined with a few fake-documentary style extras recalled Ben Stiller's Director's Cut 2-disc edition of Tropic Thunder), it's nonetheless an amusing if a bit unsuccessful in its horror set-up and at its best instead when dealing with as Clayton states "the whole Bruce Campbell factor."

Just as the title denotes, the Blu-ray itself is all about Bruce, featuring a gorgeous, high quality movie comic book (which in itself pays homage to the film's source material which was derived from the writers by the '40s comic books The Adventures of Alan Ladd which found the actor being kidnapped from sets to help others) that rivals the stunning high definition transfer of the film. Likewise, as it boasts on the box, the Blu is "loaded with groovy extras"-- including feature length commentary, four behind the scenes featurettes, and additional poster, props, and photo art.

One of the more entertaining extras is Heart of Dorkness-- The Making of My Name is Bruce which takes a satirical Coppola styled Apocalypse Now/Heart of Darkness approach in its hour long featurette (another joke used in Tropic Thunder's extras) as some friends of Campbell's put together an in-depth video diary of the making of the film, cutting it with fun subtitles and jokes throughout as they ridicule Campbell's long-winded soliloquies about his movie.

Yet, more than anything, "more Bruce," is precisely what I'm sure most of the fanboys want, having shown up in droves during Campbell's in-person publicity tour of twenty locations to do as he noted on his website "a spirited Q&A" session, "barring union strikes, hurricanes, flat tires or diphtheria"--that is. And while obviously he's managed to avoid diphtheria or you know that it'd be all over his blog and throughout cyberspace-- luckily Campbell fans can catch him in action both in the current run of Burn Notice on USA as well as when this Blu-ray and DVD hits shelves on Tuesday.

This is especially the case since unlike Westen's "When you're a spy" approach, "When you're Bruce Campbell," you're as many places as you can possibly be at once, getting things done, blowing stuff up, and saving the day.