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Campbell Goes as Big as His Chin

  • Jul 31, 2011
  • by
Those who are entirely unfamiliar with B-movie thespian Bruce Campbell and the many beloved schlock movies that he's starred in would do well to avoid this movie altogether; it's neither a good starting point from which to explore this minor phenomenon, nor substantial enough to retain the interest of the uninitiated. Those who have developed either a distaste or disinterest in Campbell's career would also do well to stay away from this, as it's the kind of project tailored to appeal to fans. If you're one of those fans, you've probably already seen this and know what you think of the film, so the only people who really need to read beyond this paragraph are those who have cultivated a substantial (though not fanatic) taste for Campbell's many silly projects and goofy, charismatic performances.

Herein, The Chin portrays an obnoxious, washed-up, alcoholic caricature of himself who's kidnapped by a fan from a small mining town. The locals of this burg are either unwilling or unable to distinguish Campbell from his heroic onscreen alter-egos, and so expect him to violently exorcise the angry spirit of a Chinese death god who's menacing the town.

Plotted in the vein of Three Amigos, this is about as predictable as most of the movie's visual gags and jokes. Of course, this isn't an entirely negative aspect of the film; My Name is Bruce is nothing if not a parody of Campbell's entire career. The Chin's filmography, bibliography, interaction with his fandom and many career exploits are all cleverly referenced throughout the course of this story. The problem with Mark Verheiden's script is only that it's underdeveloped - it plays out like a very promising first draft that simply needed a treatment or two, and considering Campbell's talent for scribing farcical humor, I really can't fathom why he didn't contribute more to it. The proceedings are marked by no small number of very funny moments, but for each of these, there are two that fall quite flat.

Mostly comprised of amateur unknowns from Campbell's home state of Oregon, the most visible of the cast cast perform ably despite wooden acting from those in certain minor roles; ostensible love interest Grace Thorsen exhibits a particular talent for comedic exchange. As usual, Ted Raimi is present, and in no fewer than three roles. He's decent enough as a sleazy Hollywood agent, and entirely hit-and-miss as a pair of walking Chinese and Italian stereotypes, who aren't as amusing as they could be and could only offend the most sensitive audience members, who aren't likely to have any interest in this in the first place. Evil Dead devotees will surely be pleased to see Ellen Sandweiss, Tim Quill and Dan Hicks in a few small, playful roles. Overall, these performances aren't any more or less competent than those of the average big-budget genre picture, and I'd much sooner support the efforts of outsiders than those of bloated studio drones. Of course, Campbell holds the whole movie together with his enormous screen presence and trademark charm.

As a director, Campbell seems to be developing steadily, if slowly. This is much better than the annoying Man with the Screaming Brain, and most of the other moronic B-features that he stars in, for that matter. As a nod to Sam Raimi's style, Campbell implements tilted composition and zooms to decent effect, and never seems to take any aspect of the project too seriously - a wise decision if there ever was one. The most carefully shot sequence in the entire movie is that of a scene from a fake B-movie typical of Campbell's oeuvre, in which every common goof is on display: a boom mike shadow, crew members in the background periphery, ridiculous continuity errors, actors glancing at their floor-bound marks, etc.

While this isn't quite a flop, it doesn't exactly work, either. The film's premise was thoroughly exploited, but not to sufficient effect. Its special effects are passable and actually much better than those of the average B-movie. Ultimately, it's reasonably entertaining, yet marginally unsatisfying. A better screenplay would have yielded a product more worthy of its star's cult fame.

DVDs of independent films have come a long way from the overpriced, bare-bones, limited edition releases common to the market. Image Entertainment invested substantial effort in their release to ensure that Bruce fans get a lot for their money.

Presented in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and Surround, both soundtracks are excellent, and adequate for a wide range of hardware. Subtitles are available in English and Spanish, the former formatted for the hearing impaired.

I don't mind that clips of the movie's numerous decapitations are utilized as bumpers between each set of menus, but waiting through them between scene selection screens is an exercise in mild tedium. Selecting from a set of titled thumbnails should be neither a lengthy nor laborious procedure.

Anyone who's heard The Chin's commentary tracks on other discs (most notably those of the Evil Dead flicks) know how comfortable, informative and fun they are, and they'll feel right at home with this disc's commentary. Campbell does most of the talking, but MNiB producer Mike Richardson is also featured on the track, and his exchanges with the director/star are definitely worth hearing.

If you're the kind of obsessive basement-dweller who loves special features that require more time to watch than the movie they supplement, you'll adore this disc even more than I did. Most prominent among these is Heart of Dorkness, a behind-the-scenes account in parody of Apocalypse Now documentary Hearts of Darkness. Despite its extremely silly presentation, Dorkness does provide an abundance of information concerning the film's production and shoot through extensive interviews with its cast and crew, and plenty of on-set footage. Very little information presented in this featurette is mentioned in the commentary track. More importantly, it provides Campbell and his friends with yet another outlet for their shenanigans.

Probably the best of the special features is Beyond Inside the Cave, a faux public access TV special on the making of the aforementioned fake B-movie in MNiB, Cavealien 2. Only nine minutes long, it's easily as funny as anything in the film itself. As he did in Dorkness, Michael Kallio directed and stars in this as the same hack director he portrays in MNiB, and the result is ably edited, calculatedly ludicrous and amusing enough to induce more than a few giggles. A trailer for Cavealien 2 is also provided, as awful as it's supposed to be - about as bad as any of the Sci-Fi Channel features in which Campbell's starred.

Many short clips from the MNiB shoot are also included as special features. Awkward Moments With Kif captures a couple of unspeakably funny, wholly uncomfortable moments with producer/graphic designer Craig Sanborn. Waxing Philosophical With Bruce finds The Chin dispensing bad advice on contending with wild animals at home, indirectly describing the miniscule MNiB budget on set outdoors and explaining the necessity of flipping off the camera in DVD extras in the movie's strip club set. In Kif's Corner, Sanborn explains how he designed DVD sleeves and theatrical posters for fake movies referenced throughout the film. The Hard Truth is another spoof documentary that, like the movie, depicts Campbell as an irritable, unrepentant jerk. I'd explain Love Birds, but I'm not in the habit of including spoilers in these reviews.

Three requisite photo galleries are available to those of lingering interest and ample time. One poster art gallery displays all of Craig Sanborn's aforementioned mock-up theatrical posters, which parody those of popular movies, familiar consumer products, Campbell's B-movies and much of the MNiB crew. The props art gallery is even more fun to see: everything from the labels on bean curd containers and the Japanese Evil Dead drain cleaner to a Fangoria issue featuring Cavealien as a cover story can be seen here. Less interesting, the standard photo gallery is comprised of publicity, production and behind-the-scenes photographs, most of which are already available online.

One boring, conventional theatrical trailer concludes these extras.

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More My Name Is Bruce reviews
review by . August 21, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
      MY NAME IS BRUCE      Of course any one who knows me or has read any of my reviews knows that I am a huge Bruce Campbell fan, can't help it any thing he is apart of I will buy. So of course I was ready and waiting when this marvelous piece of filmmaking came out [I know I know, I am a fan boy]. Naturally after having a whole weekend of a great Bruce Campbell marathon I was still ready for this movie as was every one around me, of course I now realize …
Quick Tip by . August 21, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
To all Bruce fans you probably already own this but to those who don't you are missing out. And to those who are just casual movie goers this one can also be for you, it is really funny and Bruce provides a funny performance. Also all you movie buffs like myself will love the DVD, it is loaded beyond belief with special features. First off we get a great audio commentary from the man himself Bruce Campbell and producer Mike Richardson as well as a great behind the scenes making of feature. There …
review by . May 20, 2009
Hail to the King, Baby
MY NAME IS BRUCE is exactly what Bruce Campbell fans would expect it to be, but with perhaps a bit more vulgar language included. Having read the Dark Horse comic book that was created to parallel it, I wasn't expecting much--the humor in the film relies completely on the delivery of its hero the one and only Bruce Campbell, which is something that simply doesn't translate to the printed page.         The plot is simple: teenagers accidentally raise the Chinese god …
About the reviewer
Robert Buchanan ()
Ranked #29
I'm a bibliophile, ailurophile, inveterate aggregator, dedicated middlebrow and anastrophizing syntax addict. My personality type is that of superlative INTJ.
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About this movie


My Name is Bruce is a horror/comedy motion picture written by Mark Verheiden of Dark Horse Comics and directed by B-movie icon Bruce Campbell, who also stars as a fictionalized version of himself.
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Director: Bruce Campbell
Genre: Action, Comedy, Horror
Release Date: 2008.11.2
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 86 minutes
Studio: Dark Horse Entertainment, Image Entertainment
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"Hail to the King, Baby"
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