Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Bubba Ho-Tep

In the last year, I think I've seen three grown-up movies (I don't want to use the term "adult movies" on the Internet). Besides Big Fish and F for Fake some time back, I recently had the chance to see Bubba Ho-Tep.

There's a saying in science fiction that you can ask a reader to swallow a porcupine but you can't ask him to swallow two porcupines. Meaning you can introduce a concept beyond the normal pale of suspension of disbelief but anything after that is asking for trouble (Plan Nine from Outer Space tried to have an alien invasion AND zombies). True, some writers like William Gibson can throw you a porcupine per page but in general the lone porcupine rule stands up well.

Bubba Ho-Tep features Elvis in a nursing home, years after he switched places with an Elvis impersonator (it was the impersonator, not the true King, who died on the toilet). JFK lives a few doors down the hall—only he's black. "They dyed my skin," Jack explains to Elvis. What better way to sow confusion and disinformation? Another man thinks he's the Lone Ranger. No suggestion is made that he really is the Lone Ranger but the concept of identity is circumspect in this film.

Elvis is simply waiting to die—he's got a pus-filled growth on his impotent Little King—and spends the days full of regrets. Everything changes when he's attacked by a giant beetle, which is apparently the familiar of Bubba Ho-Tep, a soul-sucking Egyptian mummy that was lost in the creek next to the nursing home decades before during a robbery from an art museum (you need a lot of dependent clauses to explain this baby).

JFK and the King team up to destroy the mummy before it devours the souls of the old people. You see, when a mummy sucks your soul from your body (through any orifice but preferably the anus), you don't go to heaven or have a shot at reincarnation. Your soul is digested and shit down the nursing home's visitors' bathroom while Bubba Ho carves obscene hieroglyphics on the stall.

I liked the movie but almost wish the mummy never showed up. Just watching the old Elvis interact with the other characters was enough. Bruce Campbell kept things from melting down. There's something about Campbell that just helps you accept things as they're presented.

Bubba Ho-Tep isn't on Citizen Kane's level but it's inventive and funny without being idiotic. Roger Ebert once said that seeing an ass isn't funny in itself; it depends on whose ass it is and how you saw it. Although you never see them, the idea of a withered mummy in cowboy boots and a ten-gallon hat sucking the souls from Elvis's and JFK's ass is funny and disturbing.

I'm going to have to buy the DVD.

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