'My Name is Bruce'

Cheerfully embracing his status as cult B-movie genre megastar even as he sends it up, Bruce Campbell's sophomore directorial excursion, "My Name is Bruce," is a big in-joke of definite if limited appeal.

Cheerfully embracing his status as cult B-movie genre megastar even as he sends it up, Bruce Campbell’s sophomore directorial excursion, “My Name is Bruce,” is a big in-joke of definite if limited appeal. Select theatrical dates (accompanied by the headliner’s personal appearances) should nicely build genre-fan buzz for concurrent DVD release.

Portraying himself as gone to seed, ruined by drink, divorce, Z-grade sequels and a trailer lifestyle — even his canine pet is a jaded boozehound — Campbell’s alter-ego namesake here is a puffy, proud loser barely maintaining a toehold at the celebrity sweepstakes.

Jeff (Taylor Sharpe), a fanboy and the sole surviving member of a group of punky teens attacked by an ancient evil in a graveyard, kidnaps Bruce and takes him to a small town in the Heartland. There, Bruce erroneously assumes his agent (who’s just dropped him) has instead set him up for yet another horror pic, this one shot reality-style with an amateur cast.

He’s slow to glean that the Midwest burg of Gold Lick is under actual threat from an ancient, white-bearded God of War (avenging the lives of 100 “Chinaman” workers lost in a mining disaster 100 years earlier). But Jeff has sold him as the town’s savior, and like it or not, Bruce must rise to the challenge.

This conceit promises more than the broad execution delivers, a la Campbell’s later-career fave, “Bubba-Ho-Tep,” where he played Elvis in hiding at a nursing home. Yet as in that pic, there’s a goofy goodwill at work here that’s unsophisticated yet pleasantly diverting — not least a deliberately ridiculous narrative device revolving around thwarting a demon by using the power of bean curd.

Undervalued thesp Ted Raimi (the brother of Sam Raimi, who gave Campbell his establishing gonzo showcases in the “Evil Dead” trilogy) is funny in several supporting parts. Lead’s trademark quippy, faux-heroic insincerity gets a good workout; Grace Thorsen does fine as the thanklessly earnest heroine/romantic interest.

Several endings break the fourth wall to amusingly senseless results. Occasional onscreen musical commentary by the McCain Brothers, a la Jonathan Richman in “There’s Something About Mary,” is another plus. Tech/design aspects are solid.

My Name Is Bruce

Production

An Image Entertainment release of a Dark Horse Indie production, in association with Image. Produced by Mike Richardson, Bruce Campbell. Directed by Bruce Campbell. Screenplay, Mark Verheiden.

Crew

Camera (color), Kurt Rauf; editor, Scott Smith; music, Joseph LoDuca; production designer, George Costello; costume designer, Claudia Everett; makeup effects, Melanie Tooker; assistant director, J. Morales; casting, Tia Regan. Reviewed on DVD, San Francisco, Dec. 16, 2008. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 86 MIN.

With

Bruce Campbell, Grace Thorsen, Taylor Sharpe, Ted Raimi, Ben McCain, Ellen Sandweiss, Tim Quill, Danny Hicks.

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