Director Liza Johnson’s cinematic take on the visit of a pop-culture king to the White House makes for great home theater viewing for lovers of bizarre historical comedies in Elvis & Nixon (Sony Home Entertainment, Rated R, $26.99, 86 minutes).
Specifically, it was Dec. 21, 1970, when the gun-toting Elvis Presley (Michael Shannon) woke up and decided he needed a badge to become an undercover agent for Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.
He convinced his pals Jerry Schilling (Alex Pettyfer) and Sonny West (Johnny Knoxville) to get a meeting with then-President Richard Nixon (Kevin Spacey) in the Oval Office that same day.
Although much of what happened during the meeting was speculation, the film attempts to fill in the gaps of Elvis’ full day that lead to the mega-popular photograph of the pair shaking hands as if they were lifetime buddies.
No matter the format one watches the movie in, the digital transfer offers a really great spotlight on the 1970s retro work of cinematographer Terry Stacey. What stands out here are the wonderful lead performances.
Scarfs off to Mr. Shannon who may not look like Elvis but he imbues a cartoonish spirit throughout as the weary but playful legend while Mr. Spacey nails the more curmudgeonly side of Mr. Nixon.
Just watching Elvis play a hand-slapping game with the president or show off his karate skills (never confirmed to have happened) are guaranteed to elicit some serious belly laughs.
Best extra: An optional commentary track starring Miss Johnson and the real Jerry Schilling is a treat. It’s rare to actually get a first-person source to sit down and talk about his onscreen counterpart and it makes for a fun reason to watch the movie again.
Mr. Schilling offers a steady stream of memories about his time with Elvis including the King’s love of comedies, his constant need to be accepted, dislikes of the Hollywood process, his fascination with being a police officer, Elvis’ famous temper and his love for showing off his karate skills.
A giddy Miss Johnson covers the minutiae of the story but equally enjoys interviewing Elvis’ friend to learn about where he lived in Graceland, his career as an editor for Paramount Pictures, the letter Elvis wrote to President Nixon (currently residing in the National Archives) and a storied encounter of the King hanging out in a doughnut shop.