- The Washington Times - Friday, November 14, 2008

It’s awful hard to mock something that already exists as a spoof.

“My Name Is Bruce” tries all the same, taking good-natured shots at cult favorite Bruce Campbell.

The actor, a bit player in mainstream movies (“Spider-Man”) is the main attraction in goofy features such as the “Evil Dead” trilogy. More often than not, Mr. Campbell’s performances parody the strong-jawed hero type.

That reduces “Bruce” to a flat meta-movie best appreciated by Mr. Campbell’s devotees.

“Bruce” stars Mr. Campbell playing a self-absorbed version of himself. He’s a working-stiff actor stuck in B-movie hell. When the small town of Gold Lick, Ore., is invaded by a mysterious creature, the townsfolk turn to Bruce for help.

Sure, he thinks the whole thing is one big put-on, a birthday prank set up by his slimy agent (Ted Raimi). However, playing the hero is what paid for his junker of a car and mobile home, right? So he decides to help the town smite the beastie, but before doing so, he flirts with a single mother (Grace Thorsen) and alienates everyone else with his rampaging ego.

Some sporadic chuckles escape from this low-budget mess, and they’re mostly thanks to Mr. Campbell’s signature swagger. The actor has long since perfected his mock-hero routine. Because he doubles as the director of “Bruce,” there’s no one better to run him through his paces.

When he punctuates a pickup line with a “baby” or “doll,” even those who never saw Mr. Campbell before can appreciate his appeal.

Naturally, the monster in question looks as if it came straight from a “Star Trek” set, circa 1966. That’s part of the charm “Bruce” tries so hard to muster. It certainly helps to know the Campbell oeuvre, and some gags will sail straight past casual moviegoers.

But the creaky script by “Smallville” scribe Mark Verheiden doesn’t build upon “Bruce’s” premise.

The slapstick bits fall on their faces in all the wrong ways, and most of the punch lines feel lonely without the canned laughter they’d rate in a second-rate sitcom. Desperation clearly sets in when one character adopts a stereotypical Asian accent.

A few touches threaten to elevate “Bruce” beyond a made-for-cable romp, like the folk ditty that says the creature’s back story.

“My Name Is Bruce” delights in lampooning Mr. Campbell’s film resume, but it falls far short of the actor’s best B-movies.

★★

TITLE: My Name Is Bruce”

RATING: R (Adult language, gore and violence)

CREDITS: Directed by Bruce Campbell. Written by Mark Verheiden

RUNNING TIME: 86 minutes

WEB SITE: www.bruce-campbell.com/pilot.asp

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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