"...the main purpose of criticism...is not to make its readers agree, nice as that is, but to make them, by whatever orthodox or unorthodox method, think." - John Simon

"The great enemy of clear language is insincerity." - George Orwell

Friday, February 20, 2009

DVD of the Week: My Name is Bruce

Over the years, actor Bruce Campbell has cultivated a sizable fan following based predominantly on the three Evil Dead films he made with Sam Raimi. In the 1990s, he tried to make a bid for mainstream success with small roles in The Hudsucker Proxy (1994), Congo (1995) and McHale’s Navy (1997) – none of which were commercial or critical successes. In the 2000s, he’s been relegated to mostly direct-to-Sci-Fi Channel fare like Alien Apocalypse (2005) and cameos in Raimi’s Spider-Man films. Campbell’s had more success with personal films like Bubba Ho-Tep (2002), which he made independently with Don Coscarelli (of Phantasm fame). He’s also tried his hand at directing with Man with the Screaming Brain (2005) and, recently, My Name is Bruce (2007).

This new film pokes fun at Campbell’s status as a B-movie icon. He plays a version of “himself” or, at least an extension of his Ash character from The Evil Dead films to a certain degree. Bruce is a washed-up alcoholic actor relegated to schlock like Cavealien 2. He’s hit rock bottom with zero prospects until one of his biggest fans, a nerdy teenager named Jeff (Taylor Sharpe), kidnaps him in order to save the small mining town of Gold Lick from the wrath of Guan-di, the Chinese god of war and protector of the dead. The population of the town is rapidly dwindling at the hands of ol’ Guan-di and it’s up to Bruce to redeem himself and save the day.

Campbell seems to be having fun taking the piss out of how he’s perceived, which he already did in his novel, How to Make Love! The Bruce Campbell Way. He gets to play a real cad who’s sexist, vulgar, a coward, and basically acts like an overgrown child, insulting everyone around him. Campbell’s also not afraid to make fun of himself and look silly, often being the butt of jokes.

As you would expect from this kind of film, there are all kinds of references to Campbell’s past films with several long-time collaborators like Ted Raimi, Tim Quill, Dan Hicks, and Ellen Sandweiss popping up in minor roles. Raimi even gets to play three different characters, much like he did back in the Evil Dead days. The dialogue is pretty cheesy and the jokes painfully obvious, especially in the scene where Bruce dances with the town beauty, Kelly Graham (Grace Thorsen).

My Name is Bruce probably won’t convert too many new Bruce Campbell fans but it should keep his current fanbase happy. The production values are pretty good for a low-budget independent film and are definitely an improvement from his first directorial effort. The problem with this film is that, at times, it becomes exactly what it is trying to parody: a cheesy B-movie starring Bruce Campbell. Maybe that’s the point but the end result is not as good as Bubba Ho-Tep but certainly not as bad as Alien Apocalypse.

Special Features:

There is an audio commentary by Bruce Campbell and producer Mike Richardson. Campbell points out that the entire film was shot on his property in Oregon and they built all of the town of Gold Lick from scratch. He points out all of the intentional goofs in the Cavealien 2 film within the film. Campbell also points out all of the people in the film whom he’s known or worked with over the years. He talks about his public persona and how it mixes with his actual life in this film on this entertaining track.

“Heart of Dorkness” is an hour-long making of documentary that starts off riffing on Apocalypse Now (1979). Dark Horse Comics wanted to branch out into independent films and approached Campbell who agreed only if he could direct and star. To cut costs and be more efficient, Campbell hired actors and crew members that he had worked with on other films often going back many years. This is an entertaining and informative look at how this indie film was made.

“Awkward Moments with ‘Kif’”: features two useless bits of the film’s associate producer engaging in pointless banter with another crew member.

“Bruce On…” sees the actor pontificating about film budgets, talking about the dangerous wildlife near his home, and jokes about DVD extras.

Cavealien 2 Trailer” is a pretty funny, intentionally cheesy faux trailer for the movie within the movie.

“Beyond Inside the Cave: The Making of Cavealien 2” parodies those fluffy making of promotional featurettes that populate most DVDs with the cast and crew talking up a film that is obviously crap.

Kif is back in “Kif’s Korner” as he talks about the faux DVD and poster art he put together for the film.

Also included are several galleries – poster art (of all the fake films), a gallery for various movie props, and one of movie stills.

“The Hard Truth” is the E! True Hollywood Story-style profile of Bruce that is shown briefly in the film. This is pretty amusing stuff.

“Love Birds” documents the “romance” between two actors who play rednecks in the film.

Finally, there is a trailer for My Name is Bruce.

Rounding out the impressive amount of extras are several Easter Eggs buried throughout the menus and a mini-comic book adaptation of the film.


  1. Hey J.D. Wow! Looks awesome. I'm a big Bruce Campbell fan. I definitely want to see this movie. I love him in anything he's in. I really enjoy him on Burn Notice. He's been good whether the movie he's in is good or not. Many times it sucks. He always shine. He doesn't take himself seriously. He's having a good time. That's what I like about him. Have a great weekend. Cheers!

  2. Sounds like great fun.Already got this one down on my rental list, but will move it a few rungs higher up. Not sure if we have the same DVD extras over here. Hope so as it's a fully loaded package, for sure.

  3. Keith:

    Yeah, I'm a huge fan of most of Campbell's work. And isn't he wonderful in BURN NOTICE? Perfectly cast and it's nice to see him back on TV on a regular basis and on a hit show no less! I think you'll dig MY NAME IS BRUCE.

    Steve Langton:

    It is a fun film. Nothing great but definitely a decent time waster.