Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on laptop.
I figured that My Name is Bruce was going to be a rough ride. I love me some Bruce Campbell, but he’s long stood by the idea that for him, the bigger the movie, the smaller the part. He’s clearly the star here, playing a version of himself in a movie that he is directing. Based on that formula, that makes this a very small movie, indeed.
The central conceit to My Name is Bruce is that Bruce Campbell, B-movie star extraordinaire, is a terrible human being in real life. According to this film, Campbell is hated by everyone he works with, constantly drunk, tries to have sex with every woman he meets, is rude to his fans, and lives in a trailer. It’s a clearly comedic version of Campbell who, from everything I can gather, appears to be generally well-liked by the people he works with. Campbell was obviously good with this version of himself, though, since the film itself is clearly parody.
In the town of Goldlick, a young Bruce Campbell superfan named Jeff (Taylor Sharpe) is dragged to a cemetery by his friend Clayton (Logan Martin) for a sort of double date. Jeff blows it with his date and discovers a medallion hanging on the entrance of an abandoned mine shaft. He takes it, unleashing the spirit of Guan-Di (James J. Peck). The backstory is that years earlier, a group of Chinese miners were killed in a collapse. Before dying they called on the spirit of Guan-Di (who, according to the movie is the Chinese god of bean curd) to defend/protect/avenge them. With the medallion gone, Guan-Di is now free to kill all of the descendants of those who let the miners die, which turns out to be everyone in town.
Jeff, sort of believing that Bruce Campbell is like the characters he plays in the movies, hunts him down to help rescue the town. Bruce, having been promised a special birthday present by his agent (Ted Raimi) believes that this is his present—a sort of movie where he gets to star as himself and be not just the guy playing the hero but the actual hero. And so he goes to Goldlick along with Jeff, who has talked him up to all of the people in town. What this means is that his reception in town only adds to his belief that this Guan-Di thing is just a movie, a fact that doesn’t stop him from trying to pick up Jeff’s mom Kelly (Grace Thorsen).
Of course, after being a complete Hollywood doucebag to everyone in town, Bruce heads off to face what he thinks is a movie monster only to find out it’s the real thing. He runs off, but is more or less guilted into returning to Goldlick to try to rescue Jeff and everyone else in the town. In other words, it’s a cowardly version of what happens at the end of Army of Darkness.
My Name is Bruce isn’t going to play so much with the tropes of the low-budget monster movie as it is going to play with the idea of the shitty hero. In fact, that’s the biggest running joke of the film. Everyone hates Bruce Campbell (including his dog eventually) and everyone is happier when he’s not around. There are a number of other running jokes in the film, including an Italian painter (also played by Ted Raimi) who repaints the population sign every time someone dies, including himself.
My Name is Bruce is clearly not meant to be taken seriously, but it does have some places where it ventures into bad taste, and not in a good way. Ted Raimi also plays Wing, a descendant of the dead miners in a role that is overtly racist and meant to be funny. This role includes “Engrish,” an obsessive love of bean curd, and fake buck teeth. It’s in pretty bad taste, and it feels out of place.
Look, I didn’t expect My Name is Bruce to really be anything other than what it is. It’s fun in the sense that it gives Bruce Campbell a chance to poke fun at himself and his career. There are plenty of great in-jokes that refer to his career and filmography. The bigger a fan you are of Campbell, the more likely you are to enjoy this film, but even then, it’s a lot of nonsense for a couple of good jokes.
Why to watch My Name is Bruce: Because it’s Bruce Campbell.
Why not to watch: It’s camp, and not always the good kind.