Sunday, March 21, 2010

Movies I'm Watching: Bubba Ho-tep

I recently embarked on a project to watch films I've never seen on lists of little-known films that, according to the list makers, are neglected gems well worth seeing. I compared three of these lists (one by critic Leonard Maltin and two others) and decided to start by watching the films that overlap (the films on more than one list--although there were only a few). Bubba Ho-tep (2003; directed by Don Coscarelli; starring Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis) kicks off the project. For details, see my initial post on the subject.

I sincerely hope this is not indicative of the overall caliber of the films recommended. Surely we can do better than this, can't we? Bubba Ho-tep seems over-praised. It has one or two witty lines, but the humor is mostly vulgar and sophomoric.

The bare bones of the absurd story piqued my interest before watching the film: Elvis (or his soul trapped in the body of an Elvis impersonator, or just an Elvis impersonator that thinks he's Elvis, or maybe doesn't think he's Elvis--it's not quite clear) and a black man that insists he's actually John F. Kennedy discover that recent deaths at their depressing home for the elderly in East Texas have been caused by a re-animated Egyptian mummy that was lost years ago in a creek near the home. It seems the mummy now survives by sucking the souls out of debilitated patients (through the anus). For some reason, the mummy wears cowboy boots and other cowboy garb; he is Bubba Ho-tep--but none of this really makes sense. Ultimately, a superficially interesting story idea, a vague attempt to say something meaningful about how we treat our old folks, and one or two good jokes aren't enough to make up for the confusing plot, shoddy production standards, and mediocre acting. In the end, the most interesting thing about this movie has been trying to explain to people what it's about--and that's not much of a recommendation. I think I'm beginning to remember why I've never used Leonard Maltin's movie reviews. I will say one thing for Bubba Ho-tep. It's unique. I suspect, however, that it would have been best left in its original form, a short story by Joe R. Lansdale. Maybe I'll read the story. On second thought, maybe I won't.

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