Who says you can't be a B movie star and be an icon? Well, that's exactly what happened to Bruce Campbell! He brought to life the sarcastic and animated Ash from the Evil Dead/Army of Darkness films, appeared many times on shows like Burn Notice, Xena and Hercules, and that's just the tip of the ice-berg. After all the cameos and B movies, there's one role that Bruce hasn't played... until now. My Name Is Bruce shows us Campbell in the light of parody, as both himself, and the characters his legion of fans have come to adore!
The light taken on Bruce in the film isn't particularly good, as he's self portrayed as a wash up, nothing more than a has been. His agent can only get him work by playing the same crappy character in a notoriously bad Cave Alien franchise. He's living alone (read: divorced) in a trailer, drinking his life away with a dog that only loves him when he shares the booze. He drunk dials his ex-wife while she's sleeping with someone he knows. Many people don't recognize who he is anymore, and those that do are nothing more than rabid wannabe fans that treat him like spit. The only bone he's being thrown, is the promise of a super special birthday present from his agent!
After a night of drinking, Bruce is conked on the head and kidnapped by a rabid fan. Waking up in the trunk of a car in a small little town in Oregon, he finds an entire town of people begging him to be their savior!
Fooling around in the local graveyard one night, a couple of kids mistakenly unleashed the fury of Guan Di, the Chinese God of War, as well as the protector of (what else?) bean curd! Free at last, Guan Di only has one thing on his mind, and that's killing the entire town of Gold Lick.
Thinking that this is nothing more than elaborate hoax to cheer him up for his birthday, Bruce plays along. He drops the sarcastic drunk routine and hams it up, taking on the wise-crackin' bad-ass persona that gained him fame as a B movie star in the first place.
After yuckin' it up with the towns people and hitting on the local women, Bruce marches an unfortunate mob to battle. Unaware of the reality of the situation, when Bruce finally comes face to face with Guan Di, he does what most of us probably would do... he runs!
Bruce tries to return to his regular life and forget about the troubled town he left behind, but when a fan uses Bruce as a template for heroism and runs off to save the town, Bruce mans up for what has to be done. The coward must find courage, and the actor must embrace the heroic roles he's played, and become one in real life.
It really is a novel idea for a film. When I first heard that Bruce was going to play himself in a flick that had Evil Dead fans forcing Bruce to fight a real monster, I was stoked! It sounded like the closest thing to Evil Dead 4 I'd ever get to see, so when I was given the opportunity to review this, I was thrilled. Unfortunately, I was left with mixed feelings after the fact.
Bruce Campbell stole the show, obviously! He brought himself to light as a reality jerk with flare, and he was able to put on the shine of confidence that made him a star in the first place! I have great respect for Campbell's acting ability and career. He's been able to do what numerous others could only dream of. He's become a recognized name in the industry by doing small roles and B movies! It was of no surprise to see Bruce really drive his performance home here.
His performance was heightened by the virtual treasure trove of references sprinkled throughout about his career. There were lots of name drops, glimpses of costumes he once wore, and cameos from people who played bit roles in his earlier work. Campbell even acted out some scenes that were meant to be throwbacks to his Evil Dead days. There are also numerous catch phrases used humorously, such as the mention of his 'boom stick'!
Unfortunately, the rest of the cast was just... awful. I know that this is meant to be a B film, and a level of silliness is purposely in the cards. You're going to just have to take my word on it for now though, the supporting cast is eye wincingly bad.
As I said, the premise behind this film is exceedingly awesome. Unfortunately, its execution is another story.
I love the idea of Bruce having to man up and fight a real demon, especially one that's brandishing ancient Chinese steel and armor! Just look at that beastie on the Blu-ray case, he looks wicked! In the film however, he looks downright cartoonish. It's as if he was rejected from the final monster casting call of Scooby Doo 2 - Monsters Unleashed.
What's truly sad, is that Guan Di doesn't really add anything to the film overall. He pops up every once in a while to unsheathe his blade and unleash a bloody massacre, but instead of creating any sort of fear or tension, you just sort of chuckle under your breath, and then the scene is over. Some of these scenes might have been redeemable if there were any sort of gore factor, but the violence is rather tame.
Again, you might be screaming at your PC monitor saying, "That's how it's supposed to be you dimwit!" I know, I know... but come on. The entire concept of Bruce having to take on a real monster was only going to work if there was any real sense of danger. What we get instead, is a demon that can be held at bay by holding up containers of bean curd!
The rest of the film's recipe for success is all here though. Bruce Campbell shows up to be showered in the light of fame, chickens out when he realizes the monster is real, and has to eventually snap out of it to save the day.
In fact, the way the story unfolds is very similar to what happened to Ash in Army of Darkness, and although that was a silly movie, there was still an element of danger in there somewhere. There was an epic battle to be had! How can you possibly expect to have an epic battle, even one on one, with bean curd? The simple answer is, you just can't. Because Guan Di is a laughable foe at best, the final showdown leaves a lot to be desired.
The question you're undoubtedly asking is if I think you'd enjoy this film. The first and foremost response I'd have for you is, "Only if you're a fan of Bruce Campbell." Even then I'd have my doubts in recommending it. I personally thought this movie was worth seeing once, but as you can guess, I'm a fan of the man. I was able to catch all the references to his work, and I was able to appreciate them immensely.
Without such an appreciation of Campbell's work, you're more than likely going to be left scratching your head. It seems the only script writing that was right on the money, were all the lines that were meant for Campbell himself. The rest of the script went a little too far in trying to be funny, there were too many convenient plot twists, and the ending was terrible.
I hate to say it, but I was left rather unsatisfied with the overall product. This is coming from the man by the way, that has an autographed copy of Campbell's book, If Chins Could Kill!
This film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and is encoded at 1080p using the AVC codec. For a B movie, the transfer was pretty decent. That's not to say there weren't some issues along the way though.
Black levels are pretty dang solid throughout much of the film, although there are a few murky spots scattered throughout the picture. Other than that, the contrast overall is incredibly easy on the eyes. The blacks penetrate deeply during night scenes without making the entire picture look excessively dark. Daytime scenes shine magnificently.
The color saturation is fairly impressive too, even during night scenes. Bruce spends a majority of the movie wearing a Hawaiian shirt, Guan Di's eyes glow in cartoonish awe, and trees outside are lush with green.
The film is pretty sharp most of the time, but there are some shots that pop up once in a while that look a little soft.
There was plenty of detail throughout the film, and although there's really no grain to speak of, there doesn't seem to be any evidence of DNR or EE. The end result is a picture that's rich while boasting plenty of depth.
Unfortunately, there is a bit of macro-blocking going on, and you'll easily notice it whenever you see an evening scene with lots of fog. There's macro-blocking you'll find to a lesser extent throughout much of the movie. The minor examples of blocking aren't terribly obvious while the movie is rolling, but if you have a huge screen or are really sensitive to seeing blocking issues, be prepared for it.
Overall, the video presentation isn't bad for a low budget film such as this, but with a little polish, this could have went from 'alright' to 'great'.
The DTS 5.1 Master Audio track also sounds a bit better than you would expect for a film of this caliber. Granted, it's not the most impressively thing you're ever going to hear when you compare it with the likes of some of your other Blu-rays, but it holds up fairly well.
There's quite a bit of dialogue in this film, as Guan Di only makes an appearance now and again to lop some heads off. The dialogue is crisp and clean, leaving no room for imperfections to rear an ugly head.
Later in the film when the action picks up however, there is some decent use of the surround channels. When the town is scrambling around in a panic, or Guan Di is hiding mysteriously in the shadows, the surrounds are going to make you feel like you're in the thick of things. The effects sound pretty full all around, although it would have been nice if there was a little more involvement from the sub.
The film doesn't require a ton of use of the surrounds, so you're going to get a pretty front heavy experience after everything is said and done. However, the scenes utilizing full range sound across the spectrum aren't exactly slouching!
Feature-Length Commentary with director/actor Bruce Campbell and producer Mike Richardson - We have a pretty interesting commentary here, and any fan of Bruce should love it! Bruce does 90% of the talking, letting Mike jump in with some extra tidbits every now and again. Bruce is animated and fun, and has plenty of information about pretty much every aspect of the film. There's a lot of information thrown out there, and there's never any silence on the track. Not bad for a single man doing most of the commentary!
Heart of Darkness - The Making of My Name Is Bruce - This documentary is surprisingly an hour in length. Anything you may not have heard on the commentary, you're going to see here. There's plenty of behind the scenes material here, from location scouting, to green screen work, and more! Everyone on set is having a lot of fun, and Bruce is always entertainingly witty.
Bruce On.../Awkward Moments with "Kif" - These two featurettes are only a few minutes in length, and are really just funny moments from behind the scenes that were caught on camera. Bruce waxes philosophical on numerous subjects, such as DVD extras, rap, and the budget. "Kif" is caught talking his way into a couple of awkward moments with other crew members on the set.
Cave Alien 2 Trailer - If you thought the production values for the phony Cave Alien 2 film that was featured in My Name Is Bruce, then you're going to laugh at just how bad this trailer is! It's all intentional and in good fun, of course.
Beyond Inside the Cave: The Making of Cave Alien 2 - Another phony extra, this behind the scenes look at the film that doesn't really exist is hilarious. It's unprofessional; the people involved seem to care very little about their 'work' on the film... this is just gold. Make sure you check this out!
The Hard Truth News from Hollywood - The Real Bruce Campbell - A bunch of the cast and crew sound off on 'the real' Bruce Campbell.
"Kif's" Korner - "Kif" shows us how he made a lot of the fake poster art that was supposed to represent numerous other fake projects the fictional Bruce Campbell appeared in.
Love Birds - Recognizable faces from Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness have a little fun on the set pretending to be a couple!
My Name Is Bruce Comic - This isn't a feature on the Blu-ray itself, it's actually a real comic book that's tucked inside the case! I would suggest holding off on reading it until after you've seen the film though, as it's basically the entire ending of the movie on paper.
Also included is a poster art gallery, props art gallery, photo gallery, and the My Name Is Bruce trailer.
A lot of the features are just fun little snippets to spice up the Blu-ray a bit, but I'm cool with that. There's more than enough information about the production in the commentary, as well as the one hour documentary.
I'll just come right out with it. If you're unfamiliar with Bruce Campbell and his work, then you shouldn't bother checking this one out. There's no mistake about it, this is strictly an affair for the fans, and even then I'd only recommend you rent it.
Bruce is undoubtedly at the top of his game as usual, but the script is sloppy, and the villain is straight out of a live action Scooby-Doo film. There was so much potential for this film to be as bad-ass as Army of Darkness was, but it ended up being straight up camp, all the way.
Ah well, at least the video is undoubtedly going to be better than on the standard DVD, and the audio isn't bad either! The extras are fairly decent, and the comic book that's included is a nice little bonus as well. I can't stress enough though, even if you're a fan, you probably shouldn't blind buy this title. Make sure you give it a whirl before plunking down the cash for a purchase!