Book Review: Make Love The Bruce Campbell Way: The Audio Version
· Bruce Campbell
by Troy Riser
Published: November 28, 2005
When watching movies, I’ve encountered this phenomenon I call the Walken Effect. I’ll be catching a dreary, by-the-numbers picture—it doesn’t matter which genre, really, or how high or low the production values—when suddenly, out of nowhere, a really talented, sometimes well-known actor—usually actor Christopher Walken—pops up, appears for five, ten, fifteen minutes (tops), delivers a mesmerizing performance, exits Stage Left, and saves an otherwise forgettable film by means of a kind of charismatic hit-and-run. Actors who can redeem the bad or mediocre, or make the good great, are rare. The actor Bruce Campbell has it, whatever ‘it’ is: that combination of qualities—presence, conviction, acting ability—hard to quantify, narrow down, or articulate, which makes watching Campbell in a movie—any movie—interesting and worthwhile.
Bruce Campbell is the quintessential working Hollywood actor, appearing in dozens of television shows and feature films. Probably best known for his role as Ash in Sam Raimi’s ‘Evil Dead’ Spam-in-a-cabin franchise, Campbell has also starred, co-starred, and appeared in dozens of feature film and television productions. From his turn as the aging King of Rock and Roll in the independent horror comedy ‘Bubba Ho-tep’, Bruce Campbell has the distinction of being one of the handful of actors on the planet who could play Elvis without seeming like a cheesy, rhinestone-spangled imitator. Although popularly perceived as a comedian, Campbell has also played the occasional bad guy—Carl the stickup man, for example, in the gritty black and white crime thriller ‘Running Time’. Campbell also writes screenplays. And directs. And produces.
Now he’s writing books. And performing them, too. The audio version, a six-disc CD set, is not a dry, interminable read-through by the author. Instead, ‘Make Love!* The Bruce Campbell Way’ is presented as a radio play, complete with sound effects and recognizable voice talent.
The fictional nonfiction pseudo-biography of Make Love The Bruce Campbell Way concerns itself with a character named Bruce Campbell, an actor known largely through his roles as the handsome, somewhat dashing, sometimes smarmy leading man in low budget genre pictures and occasional television roles who suddenly finds himself catapulted into the linchpin role of a big budget Renee Zellweger/Richard Gere romantic comedy, Let’s Make Love!, directed by Mike Nichols (The Graduate, Silkwood, Catch-22, et al). Once on set, the Bruce Campbell character proceeds to infect a major, mainstream Hollywood production with a B-movie virus, transforming a by-the-numbers, major league romantic comedy into…something else. Thanks to Bruce, Richard Gere becomes enamored of pointless action scenes; Renee Zellweger learns how to really show off her talents; Mike Nichols embraces the idea of the falling dummy. Nor is the crew immune. No one is immune. Meanwhile, the Bruce Campbell character throws himself into the role, insisting, for example, that the cast and crew address him by the name of his character, constructing a backstory biography of his character, traveling the country and researching extensively the environment that would birth and shape the man who is Foyle, the hotel doorman.
Throughout the course of the narrative, one thing leads to another thing, comes to a dead end, and then goes off in a completely different direction. In fact, the jumpy, episodic nature of the book reads suspiciously like, well, a B-movie, as if that terrible virus somehow infected the story—which isn’t to say, by the way, that the book is badly written or—if referring to the audio version—badly performed. The whole thing is done with gusto and good humor: one part good-natured satire, one part unbridled slapstick romp. Campbell spares no one as he skewers Hollywood sensibilities, not even himself. He is well aware of his status as Sci-Fi Channel icon, the undisputed king of B-movies, and plays on that identity when putting his fictional Bruce Campbell character through the whole ‘Let’s Make Love’ ordeal.
It’s easy to be a Bruce Campbell fan. One gets the sense that he is what he appears to be: capable, hardworking, smart, with a keen sense of his strengths and limitations. The hard part is trying to figure out just how good he is at his craft, how good he could be, given the right role, the right script, the right director, with something bigger than a B-movie budget and a shooting schedule extending beyond two weeks.
Grade: B (of course)