Review: ‘Almost Elvis’

Skimming the surface of the oft-satirized world of professional Elvis impersonators, John Paget's "Almost Elvis" spends a year on the road with an assortment of showmen all vying for a first-place finish at the Images of Elvis World Championship in Memphis.

Skimming the surface of the oft-satirized world of professional Elvis impersonators, John Paget’s “Almost Elvis” spends a year on the road with an assortment of showmen all vying for a first-place finish at the Images of Elvis World Championship in Memphis. While docu offers interesting observations on the diversity of the Elvis subculture — from teenage Elvis Quentin Flagg to African-American Elvis Robert Washington — it ultimately devolves into a rigidly formulaic “Rocky” story (complete with outbursts of “Gonna Fly Now” on the soundtrack) as the 41-year-old perennial runner-up Irv Kass trains for the championship.

Chockful of wildly eccentric characters (not the least of which is the slightly overweight, plastic-surgery-enhanced Kass) and wall-to-wall Elvis tunes, pic succeeds as superficial entertainment and should please fans of the King. But while Paget captures the eerie, cultish fanaticism of legions of Elvis devotees, he never examines the roots of America’s ceaseless fascination with Elvis kitsch. The resultant feel is that of a filmmaker having randomly chosen a subject for his film, rather than waiting for a proper subject to choose him.

Almost Elvis

Docu

Production

A Seventh Art Releasing release of a Blue Suede Films production. Produced by John Paget. Executive producer, Udy Epstein. Directed by John Paget.

Crew

Camera (color, digital video), Matt Valentine; editors, Paget, James Waugh; associate producers, David Ross, Waugh. Reviewed at Hollywood Film Festival, Aug. 4, 2001. Running time: 85 MIN.

With

Doug Church, Quentin Flagg, Robert Washington, Irv Cass, Johnny Thompson, Steve Sogura, James Lowrey, Rich Andrews, Vernon Chadwick.
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