If you read my review/first look of Burn Notice you would know that I’m kind of obsessed with Bruce Campbell. Actually, I really don’t know how you’re not obsessed with him. I mean, he’s Bruce Campbell: B-movie god and just all around cool guy. Seriously, how can you not be obsessed with a man who wrote a book called Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way?
Anyway, we’ll move past the fact that if you aren’t a Bruce fan you obviously don’t take your entertainment seriously and go directly into my take on Bubba Ho-Tep.
Elvis (Bruce) is far from dead; he’s been living in an old folks home somewhere in Texas under the name Sebastian Haff for years. Of course, nobody believes him – except the black guy down the hall who insists he’s really JFK and he was dyed black so nobody would know who he was. Not exactly what you would call a ringing endorsement. Is it any wonder the elderly rock ‘n roll icon spends almost all his time lying in bed contemplating the possibly cancerous growth on the family jewels?
Then several tragedies strike. What’s an aging rock ‘n roll star with a growth on his nether-regions to do when a soul-sucking mummy shows up and starts taking out the elderly at the Shady Rest Nursing Home? Don his rhinestone-studded white suit complete with cape, throw on his huge sunglasses, and pull out his walker, that’s what.
Luckily, he’s not alone. Jack (Ossie Davis), the black man who believes himself to be JFK, also joins the fight, which is a truly hilarious picture when it also involves a motorized wheelchair. Together they’re taking it upon themselves to rid Shady Rest of the cowboy hat-wearing Egyptian mummy Elvis dubs “Bubba Ho-Tep”.
Is the story cheesy and over the top? Yes. Is the idea of an ancient walker wielding Elvis and a possibly black-dyed motorized wheelchair riding JFK teaming up an exercise in rampant silliness? Yes. But is it funny? Undoubtedly, yes.
Bruce is in fine form as the elderly Elvis. It’s not just how he talks, it’s also how he handles his walker; you can clearly see he hates the thing but he’s stuck with it. Then there’s the way he insists he’s Elvis when nobody else will believe him. Except for Jack, of course, but as mentioned above he thinks he’s JFK and that he’s been dyed black to keep anybody from knowing who he really is. His room is a hilarious museum of pictures of people having to do with the JFK assassination and even a model of the street in Dallas where he was shot. I think the thing I love the most about Jack is how indignant Ossie Davis plays him. He’s clearly fed up with continually telling people he’s really JFK and dealing with their placating yet totally disbelieving tones.
The mummy himself is a slow-moving creature that survives by eating the souls of others from one of the body’s more, shall we say, uncomfortable orifices. For some odd reason it also runs around dressed like a cowboy, which almost forces you to ponder all the possibilities of an ancient Egyptian ruler (like King Tut) in a cowboy hat, boots, and pants that are entirely too tight held up with a belt buckle the size of Texas enjoying a day at the rodeo. Because the mummy moves so slowly old people are his only option for what I guess you could call survival and at Shady Rest it’s clear he’s hit the all-you-can-eat buffet.
Probably one of the greatest things about Bubba Ho-Tep is that even the little things give you a laugh, but it’s not forced. Outlandish maybe, but no more so than a 2,000 year old Egyptian mummy dressed like Garth Brooks terrorizing a random Texas nursing home that just happens to house Elvis and a black man who thinks he’s JFK. My favorite little moments have to do with the guys tasked with picking up the bodies of the nursing home’s most recently departed. Having worked in medicine myself and seeing some horrible things I’ve had to develop a morbid sense of humor and I’d imagine working with dead people also forces you to develop a similarly morbid sense of humor, some of which is, I’m sure, completely unintended.
Verdict: A-. While not as strong as the movies in The Evil Dead series Bubba Ho-Tep is definitely worth seeing if you are a Bruce Campbell fan and let’s face it, everybody is, some are just in the closet about it. Bruce Campbell was able to take material that would have ended up as MST3K fodder for sure and turned it into a hilarious romp through absurdity. You know you want to see this film.
Rated R for language, some sexual content and brief violent images.