City Paper is not for tourists
The intentional cheesiness of My Name Is Bruce is apparent from the beginning: The sheriff and mayor of a backwoods town named Gold Lick, Ore., strum guitars and sing a song about the Chinese “saint of curd” that once looked over the departed souls of their mining community. Cut to two teenage geeks, one of whom is teased about his obsession with Evil Dead star and B-movie icon Bruce Campbell, driving to a graveyard to meet some girls. Already, the acting is stiff, and the cemetery itself looks lifted from a local haunted house with the requisite bare trees, cobwebs, and fog so thick it’s clearly being belched from a smoke machine.
One wrong move from Jeff (Taylor Sharpe), the Campbell fan, and Saint Curd roars to life. As the catchy song says, Guan-Di is its name, and it’s a ridiculously unfrightening monster with glowing orange eyes and a white Fu Manchu ’stache and beard. Guan-Di likes to decapitate people—except those holding precious containers of bean curd—and Gold Lick is in a tizzy. So Jeff drives to California and kidnaps his hero, who lives in a trailer, drives a shitty hatchback, and gets blindingly drunk the second he’s done filming Cave Alien 2 for the day. Jeff believes Campbell (playing himself) is actually a demon fighter, and Campbell goes along with it, thinking it’s another movie and the surprise his agent (Ted Raimi, Sam’s brother) has been promising.
Campbell directed and co-produced My Name Is Bruce, written by Battlestar Galactica scribe Mark Verheiden, and its comedy-horror blend, complete with bad special effects, is reminiscent of 2002’s Campbell vehicle Bubba Ho-tep. But though My Name Is Bruce may be a must-see for his hardcore fans, it’s nowhere near as good. Between his Old Spice commercials and films with titles such as Man With the Screaming Brain, Campbell has obviously become comfortable with making fun of himself, and he gives his B-list career a special skewering here: Cave Alien 2 features acting more terrible than the movie in which it’s embedded, and when an autograph-seeker questions one of his film choices, he responds, “Why did I do Serving Sara? For the money, mouth-breather!”
But Campbell doesn’t have anyone as skilled as Bubba Ho-tep’s Ossie Davis to support him, and too often his attempts at laughs are juvenile—nose-picking, urine-drinking, a screeching sound effect when a woman asks him to get his hand off her ass, etc. There are some funny lines, several likely from Campbell’s ad-libbing (“Give it a rest, Shatner!” he tells one soon-to-be-victim he thinks is overacting) and real-experience references. (“You don’t know fear, kid. You never worked with Sam Raimi.”)
Naturally, the townspeople find out that Campbell is really just a washed-up coward, but the miscommunication as he acts obnoxious while believing he’s on a set gets old fast. Campbell may do a great job of playing himself, but both the character and the actor deserve a better project.