As a heroic figure of genre entertainment, it's impossible to top Bruce Campbell for larger-than-life depictions of masculinity blended with a touch of cowardice. The charismatic star of the "Evil Dead" movies is perhaps the most self-aware of cult celebrities and nothing underlines his crooked sense of worth more than "My Name Is Bruce," a spirited romp of self-deprecation and beheadings that might not hold appeal to the ordinary viewer, but remains absolute catnip to Campbell fans.
When Guan Di, the ancient Chinese patron saint of bean curd, is released from his mystical Oregon graveyard prison, the lone survivor of the demon's wrath, Jeff (Taylor Sharpe), is forced to seek out the only man he knows who can defeat otherworldly evil: Bruce Campbell. Campbell, a lowly actor in grade-Z schlock, is soon kidnapped by Jeff and brought to the backwoods town of Gold Lick to fend off the threat. Assuming the frightened community is playing a joke on him, Campbell goes along for the ride, even making the moves on Jeff's mother (Grace Thorsen). However, once Guan Di reappears, Campbell realizes the bloody gravity of the situation, promptly hitching a ride back home to the comfort of booze and his ego.
Not only is "My Name Is Bruce" written as a corroded valentine to Campbell and his winded cinematic legacy, but the picture is also directed by Campbell. Who better to tear down the sanctified air of Campbell than Campbell himself? Actually, the actor turns in adequate work behind the camera, constructing a zany comedy with elements of satire, slapstick, and bloodletting all fighting for screentime. With zero-budget production limitations, Campbell makes the best of what he has in front of him, turning backyard filming shenanigans into an evocative, upbeat DTV-style caper that entertains more than enchants, kept alive by Campbell's enthusiasm, along with his relentless desire to Sharpie a curly mustache on his image as a horror idol.
"My Name Is Bruce," as the title suggests, plays directly into the warm, sweaty hands of the fanboys who've turned Campbell into the own personal chainsaw-wielding, boomstick-carrying Fonz. Those causally walking by the film might not know who Campbell even is, but the picture assumes anyone sitting down to watch is a die-hard supporter, making the experience even more welcoming for the treehouse demographic. Here Campbell drinks "Shemp" liquor, owns a dog named "Sam 'n Rob," and passes out deodorant to his most loyal of unshowered fans. Campbell plays himself as a broken down blowhard, struggling through the production of "Cave Alien 2," barely accepting his divorce, and bearing the brunt of criticism from all sides. It's a twisted take on his own legend, but Campbell, always an actor of rich humor and comedic range, encourages the humiliation, making the world of Bruce Campbell something of a living hell, albeit an amusing one.
"My Name Is Bruce" is truly an inside joke convention, marked by appearances from Ted Raimi (in multiple roles, of course) and Ellen Sandweiss, leaving the actual Campbell ghostbusting to distract the merriment of the lampoon. The Guan Di subplot is played for giggles and throat-slashing shock, and while the threat is nicely assembled for the few coins Campbell had to play with, the monster movie moments never shine to satisfaction. Campbell plays the hysteria wonderfully (it's a tremendously animated performance), but the edgy sense of humor runs dry, taking the focus off Campbell and placing it on cheap rubber masks and squirts of blood. Grisly nonsense is more than welcome, but watching Campbell knee his own image in the groin is far more appetizing.
I smiled more than I laughed at "My Name Is Bruce," but I give credit to Campbell and screenwriter Mark Verheiden for pulling off a comedic deconstruction of a screen superstar with a giddy sense of humor. After decades of bizarre acting choices, failed television endeavors, and forgettable bit parts, Bruce Campbell finally has the spotlight again. In typical Ash fashion, it's at the expense of his dignity.
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