Like a lot of people I enjoy Bruce Campbell’s work, so I was looking forward to this film, which he co-produced, directed, and starred in as parody version of himself. In the end I was disappointed, but there are moments, and you might like it better than I did.
Campbell got his start making Super 8 films in high school with his friend Sam Raimi, soon starring in Raimi’s first commercial feature, The Evil Dead (1981), a horror film with flashes of comedy that was made for so little money that to achieve some camera moves they mounted the camera on an inverted U made of scrap wood and slid it along a 2x4 wrapped in duct tape and covered with Vasoline. (They called the rig the Vas-o-cam.) I learned about this from Campbell’s entertaining autobiography If Chins Could Kill.
Campbell went on to star in the two Evil Dead sequels, the final and best of which, Army of Darkness (1992) involves his character going back in time to the Middle Ages to battle hordes of the undead using among other things a 20th century shotgun and a chainsaw. In a later film, Bubba Ho-Tep (2002), Campbell played a nursing home patient who may or may not be Elvis Presley and who teams up with a fellow patient (Ossie Davis, who thinks he’s John F Kennedy) to battle a mummy. On television Campbell starred in The Adventures of Brisco County Jr (1993-94, reviewed here), Jack of All Trades (2000), and Burn Notice (2007-2013), and appeared in dozens of other television series, movies, and video games.
In this film, an overly enthusiastic young fans kidnaps Campbell to save his town from a vengeful Chinese deity. The “Bruce Campbell” of the movie is washed up loser stuck acting in Z-grade skiffy movies and living in a tiny house trailer. He agrees to help the town mainly because he’s attracted to the young fan’s mother (Grace Thorsen) and besides, what else has he got to do?
(Actually, he’s supposed to be filming something called Cave Alien 2, but when he doesn’t show up on the set one day they just substitute a stuffed dummy and keep filming.)
Much of My Name Is Bruce was shot on Campbell’s property in southern Oregon. Many of the actors are longtime friends, including Sam Raimi’s brother Ted, who has three roles, two of them ethnic stereotypes. Co-star Grace Thorsen is a fellow resident of southern Oregon.
The script, by Mark Verheiden (who wrote Timecop and multiple episodes of the television series Smallville, the revived Battlestar Galactica, and Heroes, among other things), has its moments, but it’s just too dang dumb. I did laugh a few times, but not often, and sometimes I cringed. There are lots of in-joke references to Campbell’s earlier films, to the Three Stooges, etc.