Alright you Primitive Screwheads, listen up! Oh no, wait, wrong film.
“My Name Is Bruce succeeds or fails based entirely upon the viewer’s opinion of Bruce Campbell, an unreasonable burden for even the most accomplished actor.” It is these words that the website Rotten Tomatoes use to sum up the vehicle that was both written, directed and stars the accomplished B-Movie actor. On lots of levels this is a very true statement and the film, which turns ten years old this week, will not resonate as much with people who are not aware of the actor and his filmography. However, it still has things to offer fans of B-Movie Horror.
Very much falling into the comedy-horror genre the premise of the plot is very simple. The mining town of Gold Lick has an ancient horror unleashed upon it by Jeff (Taylor Sharpe), a teenager who also happens to be a major Bruce Campbell fan. Thinking that Bruce must know how to deal with such things, because of his work in movies such as the Evil Dead trilogy Jeff decides to go to him for help… and when that does not work, he kidnaps him. It’s a comedy of errors, with lots of beheadings, due to the fictitious version of Campbell believing himself to be on the receiving end of a unique birthday gift from his slimy agent, Mills Toddner (Ted Raimi). He quickly realises that he won’t be able to act his way out of this one when he discovers the monster is real.
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For fans of Bruce Campbell, and his work, there is a veritable cornucopia of Easter Eggs and self-referential humour. None of his exploits are safe, the Evil Dead is obviously mentioned and the reluctant hero has to turn down an offered chainsaw at one point, but so is Bubba Ho-Tep, Assault on Dome 4 and many others. Jeff’s room is full of memorabilia, including some from Campbell’s own collection which includes a full costume from the tv show The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. The exteriors of the town of Gold Lick were built on Campbell’s own property and the character of Jeff drives an Oldsmobile Delta 88, a beige one. This car is a trademark car of Sam Raimi films of which Campbell has starred in a number since their school days together. You can watch this film multiple times and still catch references that you might have missed before now, which is a testament to Campbell’s career that has spanned over five decades.
In addition to these references, there are also a number of familiar faces in the cast, including Ted Raimi, the younger brother of Sam. Campbell used to babysit Ted when he was younger and they have often collaborated, most notably in the Hercules and Xena tv shows and in the film Man With The Screaming Brain. Ellen Sandweiss is cast as Cheryl, Campbell’s fictional ex-wife who is now sleeping with his agent. Sandweiss starred in Evil Dead as a character also called Cheryl who was dating Campbell’s. Keen observers, or obsessive fans, will also notice that Dan Hicks and Tim Quill have cameo roles in which they actively talk about the characters they played in Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness respectively.
In terms of blood and gore there isn’t too much to worry about if you are squeamish, there’s no real jump scares to speak of and a lot of the deaths are very predictable, but then that is rather the point. It’s deliberately going for the laugh rather than the shock value. The film certainly divided critics and it did not make back it’s budget, but nevertheless, it has become a cult film in its own right due to the popularity and charisma of it’s leading man.
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In the ten years since it’s release, some of the comedy is now somewhat dated. Two older guys imitating lines from Brokeback Mountain and Raimi’s performance as the old Chinese man, Wing, are a touch painful in a climate where humour has changed. There will no doubt be some viewers who find the fictional Campbell’s misogyny unsettling as well, but again he is meant to be a pastiche of Ashley Williams and an embittered actor. My Name Is Bruce is a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously and anyone watching should remember to do the same.
With a run time of only 84 minutes, it’s not too long to become a slog but long enough for some good laughs and an abundance of Bruce Campbell related fun. If you’re a fan it’s very definitely one to watch!
Are you a fan of My Name is Bruce? Let us know.