Movie buffs often dream of watching that one film that seems tailor-made just for them. For me, that film is My Name Is Bruce. Like a good portion of my fellow cinephiles, I grew up enjoying the tongue-in-cheek exploits of Bruce Campbell, an actor whose mere presence elevates even the crummiest slices of celluloid. The trick is that the man knows he's in garbage and tries to pass the fun of making such dreck onto his fans. But while My Name Is Bruce is a complete blast to watch, its badness is deliberate, playing as a cheesy and over-the-top ode to the people that stuck by Bruce through some of the worst movies ever made.
Directing from a script by Mark Verheiden, Bruce Campbell also plays himself, or a very unflattering facsimile thereof. Intensely egotistical and boozed out of his gourd, Bruce has long since become a washout, doomed to a career of straight-to-DVD crud like Cavealien 2. But just when it seems like his life couldn't get any worse, along comes teenaged fan Jeff (Taylor Sharpe) to change everything for good. In the teensy mining town of Gold Lick, it seems that Jeff has unwittingly unleashed Guan Di, a Chinese war god who's presently making mincemeat out of the townspeople. But after seeing him take on all manner of monsters and zombies in the movies, Jeff has recruited Bruce in order to protect the dwindling population. At first, Bruce thinks the whole thing is a set-up staged by his agent, but when it becomes apparent that Guan Di is very much real, he finds himself depending on all those years of B-movie acting to save the day.
If My Name Is Bruce has a flaw, it's that it's almost too exclusive. This was obviously made with Bruce Campbell fans in mind, crammed with all sorts of in-jokes and references to the man's career and image. Those unfamiliar with Campbell's work may get some enjoyment out of the premise, which is lifted straight from the likes of Three Amigos and Galaxy Quest. But the experience is all the more enhanced if you've had a few sips of the Bruce Campbell Kool-Aid. From the ramshackle sets to Guan Di's snicker-inducing appearance, Campbell has set out to send up everything about his life in the movies, specifically the bad ones. The man has a lot of fun playing himself as a mean, alcoholic shell of a man, bitter to the core at having to spend his life fighting guys in rubber suits. Sure, Campbell has made some honest-to-goodness solid films in his time (including Bubba Ho-Tep, which, as a character here notes, everybody likes). But My Name Is Bruce focuses itself on the man's Z-grade fare, which, as Campbell himself has stated, are often the most fun to be a part of.
It takes a lot to look back on your career and shake your head in full view of a moviegoing audience, but Campbell pulls it off, and without making the whole affair feel like a dirge at that. My Name Is Bruce comes with energy to burn, bouncing off the walls with a steady stream of profanity and lowbrow gags that are all in good fun. Though his often zealous fans receive a good amount of ribbing, Campbell has saved the most savaging for himself. Name me any big-name Hollywood actor ready and willing to play himself as a drunkard who berates the handicapped and guzzles whiskey from his dog's bowl. There'll be winter advisory warnings in Hell before Sean Penn does that, but Campbell is loose enough to poke fun not only at himself but to hilariously play up the story's B-movie conventions. He's even brought some friends along for the party, as those putting in appearances include The Evil Dead's Ellen Sandweiss and Ted Raimi (brother of Sam), who appears in at least three roles, each one more stereotypical than the last.
My Name Is Bruce spends so much time lampooning terrible movies, viewers may forget that it's actually a pretty good one. There's plenty of humor and heart to go around, a self-aware silliness that translates into a much smarter picture than people will give it credit for. Bruce Campbell has made some stinkers in his time, but My Name Is Bruce is pure cinematic gold.