Starring: Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis
Run time: 1hr. 32 mins.
Plot Synopsis: Bubba Ho-tep tells the “true” story of what really did become of Elvis Presley. We find Elvis as an elderly resident in an East Texas rest home, who switched identities with an Elvis impersonator years before his “death”, then missed his chance to switch back. Elvis teams up with Jack , a fellow nursing home resident who thinks that he is actually President John F. Kennedy, and the two valiant old codgers sally forth to battle an evil Egyptian entity who has chosen their long-term care facility as his happy hunting grounds
In my ongoing mission to expose everyone to awesome movies they’ve probably never seen, I bring you my review of Bubba Ho Tep. The film stars cult icon and B movie superstar Bruce Campbell as the king of rock and roll, Elvis Presley. See, Elvis grew tired of his life of fame and fortune, so he hatched a plan to switch places with the best Elvis impersonator around. The switch was successful, and the real Elvis Presley lived a happy life as an impersonator of himself. But he grew tired of this life, and wanted to switch back, but he missed his chance. The “Elvis” everyone else came to know died, and now the real Elvis lives the rest of his life proclaiming he is the real Elvis Presley, and no one believes him. The movie picks up with Elvis (looking very old) lying in bed at a retirement home. He contemplates his life and his future, and drops one of the best lines of the film. “…is there anything to life other than food shit and sex?”
I must admit that Bruce Campbell is one of my favorite actors of all time, so I am a little biased. But anyone who has seen this film would agree with me that Campbell is VERY convincing as an aging Elvis. Without a strong performance in that role, the film would be very different, and not in a good way. He makes it believable. And the story about how the “switch” went down is very believable. It makes one wonder, if all of those Elvis sightings are legit. Conspiracy theorists and Elvis fans everywhere could have a field day having this discussion. But I won’t start that here.
Now here is the kicker, the big twist, the most intriguing part of the plot: Elvis teams up with an elderly black man named Jack, who claims to be JFK. Yes, JFK was not assassinated. He survived, and the government attempted to cover it up by dying his skin black. Throughout the film, it is implied that Jack is merely senile. His claims are just the ravings of an old man. Even Elvis at first will not believe him. It is never actually confirmed or denied that Jack is JFK. In fact, it is never actually shown whether or not Elvis really is Elvis. Personally, I don’t think either one are supposed to be who they say they are. I think this film really is just about two senile old men saving their rest home from a soul stealing mummy. But it is left open to interpretation. It’s part of the fun, to imagine that they are just two cooky old guys who are having delusions of grandeur and living out their remaining years claiming to be someone they are not. And it’s just as much fun to think that those two men did survive, and are now acting as heroes. That particular line of thinking will leave you questioning what you think you know about the both of them. You can’t lose either way.
The two team up to defeat a mummy who is terrorizing their retirement home, sucking the souls from the other residents to sustain himself. Yes, I know, all of this sounds crazy. But the film is obviously not meant to be taken seriously. It has the look, the feel, and the villain that you typically find in horror films. But Bubba Ho Tep is clearly a comedy. The film is filled with wise-cracks and subtle jokes that would be easy to miss if you are not paying complete attention to the film. The movie is smart despite it’s stupid premise. And it is quite entertaining. My initial viewing went by so quickly, because I was hooked. You will be surprised how funny it is.
The movie is shot well. It looks good, not cheap. It’s fun. You have to appreciate the silliness. Just sit back and enjoy it as pure entertainment. The acting is great. Bruce Campbell would’ve made a great Elvis impersonator if he had wanted to. Ossie Davis as Jack the black JFK was hilarious. He was clearly senile, and in a very funny way. The situations that the two were placed in, together and separately, were serious yet hilarious. Any time you see an old Elvis getting “excited” when his nurse comes near, you’re going to laugh. Yes, Elvis is nothing but a hound dog (had to do it) Even at his age, you can see he could be quite the womanizer. Yet his desire for such things is diminishing. The opening of the film uses all of that to set up some of the films best jokes.
Look, I’m not saying everyone will love this film. It is another one of those movies that I seem to talk about way too much; a film that is ridiculously bad, but I love it anyway. I know a lot of people who’ve told me they don’t want to watch it, that it’s “stupid.” But when I convince them to sit down and give it a chance, they always come away saying something along the lines of “I’m surprised. It was actually pretty good.” They never would’ve seen it otherwise. There is more than enough entertainment value to warrant multiple watches. All I want to do is present it to everyone, so you at least are exposed to it and possibly you may even love it as much as I do. It is a good movie. Bubba Ho Tep is one of those movies that has a large following, making it a cult classic. Look past preconceptions and take a chance! Pick up Bubba Ho Tep. You may just be surprised. It happens that way, when you are willing to take a chance.