Actor Bruce Campbell has endured for 25 years because he takes the drive-in dreck in which he stars far less seriously than anyone else, including the audience. To be the main attraction in bottom feeders like "Mindwarp," "Man With the Screaming Brain," and "Maniac Cop" - and let's not forget "Maniac Cop 2" - is to either despair or laugh long and loud at the niches a smart, rock-jawed performer can be painted into.
But, you say, Campbell starred in Sam Raimi's "Evil Dead" films, top-notch '80s/'90s comedy horror. He has done TV, including the much-loved early '90s parody western series "The Adventures of Brisco County Jr." He has appeared in real movies. Well, real movies like "Congo."
The star will have none of it. Campbell loves his swill and the genre die-hards who lap it up, and in "My Name Is Bruce" he turns his straight-to-DVD legend inside out, directing himself in a sordid saga about a pompous Z-movie actor named Bruce Campbell who's called upon to vanquish a small-town monster.
Perhaps because Campbell is a purist at heart, "My Name Is Bruce" is as awful as anything he has done - a broadly silly gore comedy in which no gag is too cartoonish to be indulged in at least once and preferably three times. The performances by Taylor Sharpe as a local teenager and Grace Thorsen as his cutie-pie mom are likably inadequate, and the monster itself - a resurrected Chinese god of war and bean curd - appears to be made out of spare parts from the star's garage.
Preening and fleeing like a grunge-flick Bob Hope, Campbell's the whole show, but a little of his meta-referential shtick goes a long way. The best bad movies are the one that don't know they're bad, a fact that Campbell and his self-congratulatory band of camp followers have conveniently forgotten.
Still, "My Name Is Bruce" is nearly saved by its sly ear for horror cliches (one teen to another: "C'mon, let's go check out this creepy graveyard") and a very funny knowledge of the long, hard road of a working actor. "Are you ready for this, Bruce?" Campbell is asked as the ectoplasm hits the fan in the film's climax. Comes the response: "I made a movie in Bulgaria. I'm ready for anything."
Ty Burr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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