An Unbiased and Completely True Review Of..."Bubba Ho-Tep"
What's It All About?
An elderly man at The Shady Rest Retirement Home located somewhere in Eastern Texas goes by the name of Sebastian Haff, but claims to be the real Elvis Presley. The story he spins to staff and other patient is that at some point in the 70s, he grew weary of the celebrity life and the demands that were being placed on Elvis the musician. After bumping into an Elvis impersonator named Sebastian Haff (see what he did there?), he switches places with Haff, telling him that he could never let this secret out. He explains that for the next 7 years, Haff lived the life of Elvis and all that meant until his death in 1977. The real Elvis lived in anonymity as Haff the Elvis impersonator, making a decent wage performing shows as Elvis. All of the documentation that proved that this new Haff was actually Elvis Presley was destroyed when a propane tank exploded, destroying the home he was living in. With the loss of all this documentation, he could no longer prove that he was Elvis and lived out the remainder of his years as Haff.
As he ages, he begins to find that the shows he performs are becoming more arduous, until he finally slips off a stage, breaking a hip and getting an infection from the injury, which ends with him in a coma. Twenty years later, he is residing in Shady Rest Retirement Home and is beginning to question life. He is depressed about his advanced age, the frailty that comes with being a member of the elderly, the loss of dignity in living his life as Haff and not being able to return to his old life. Then there is the mysterious growth that is forming on his penis that has him both irate and worried that he is going to lose his best part. His only true friend in the place (pretty much the only person he hasn't pissed off, disgusted, or turned away with his tale of being Elvis), is his roommate, a black man named Jack who coincidentally claims that the is President John F. Kennedy. Even with Elvis' strange tale of body swapping with an impostor, he finds Jack's claim of having been dyed to a black skin tone after the assassination attempt in Texas and being shuttled to the retirement home by Lyndon Johnson in order to secure his Presidency and ensure that another assassination attempt could not be made. Though skeptical of the whole story that Jack weaves, there is a scar on the back of Jack's head, something that looks suspiciously like a bullet wound, much like the one captured on the Zapruder film during the motorcade.
We find out that some thieves have stolen an Egyptian mummy from a museum tour, and was subsequently lost when a horrific storm hits East Texas and their car skids off the road and lands in the river that runs near the home. For some reason or another, this mummy grabs the nearest clothing it can locate, namely old timey cowboy clothing and proceeds to walk the halls of the rest home, feeding on the souls of the residents there. After Elvis looks into the eyes of the mummy (when it is trying to steal Elvis' soul), he sees in flashbacks how the mummy lived when alive in Egypt, his subsequent death, and re-animation. Elvis calls the mummy Bubba Ho-Tep, a name sticks through the rest of the movie. Instead of sucking on the souls of the younger staff members who work at the facility, Bubba is instead solely focused on the old and infirm who live there. One can surmise that the mummy prefers easy pickings, as Elvis needs a walker to get around (that hip still bothers him), and Jack is confined to a motored wheelchair.
In order to defeat the mummy, Elvis and Jack begin brainstorming ideas, and come up with a plan to rid Texas of the mummified horror. Elvis believes that if the mummy is destroyed, that the rest of the patients in the rest home whom the mummy has already "eaten", will be released from bondage within the mummy and can make the journey to heaven as they should. The plan consists of a homemade flamethrower, distracting the mummy and leading it out into the fields, and hopefully making it back into bed before the morning. Jack scoots around on the wheelchair, providing the distraction, while Elvis is in charge of the flamethrower. Of course, with both of these 'warriors' being advanced in age, the plan doesn't exactly come off without a hitch. Jack is knocked out of the wheelchair, and Elvis needs to come to the rescue of his friend, flamethrower and all. Without spoiling the ending, which is as nearly as perfect as the Breaking Bad ending was, Bubba Ho-Tep is defeated, but we are not too sure if all of the souls he'd stolen were in fact released to the good place or not, but we can assume that the King and Jack made the best effort to complete their mission.
So What Do I Think?
I may have just a little itsy bit of bias on this review, folks. Bruce Campbell is by far one of my favorite actors and an actor who has truly never gotten all the recognition he deserves, and that may have skewed my opinion on this little oddity of a film.
Here, Bruce is not as physically tortured as he has been in other roles (like everything Evil Dead), but his portrayal of Elvis allows him to pull out the cantankerous attitude of an elderly former King of rock and roll, and the frailty of a man advanced in age. Ossie Davis as Jack maybe John Kennedy is the perfect counterpart for Bruce's Elvis. Jack is the more levelheaded of the two, the more able to look at things from a positive perspective and is the yin to Elvis' yang.
If Elvis had perpetrated a switch just like in the movie, I would not find it out of the realm of being believable. With all the conspiracies surrounding Elvis' death (or lack thereof), this could be something of speculative historic fiction, or could be a slice of almost documentary facts. This is what makes the absurdity of the whole movie all that much more fun when going into it. What if John Kennedy was dyed black (or had his brain placed into the body of a black man), and was subsequently dumped unceremoniously into a retirement home so that his VP could take the reigns and run the country in his stead. What a mindblower that would turn out to be.
This whole movie is an exercise in the absurd, a complete farce of epic proportions, but one that works on every level. There is enough humor, drama, horror elements, and superb acting from all parties to fill all the needs you will need for about 90 minutes of your day. It's not an award winner, but it is well worth a look if you can find it on Netflix, Amazon, Vudu, or just buy a dang DVD, you will not be disappointed.