How big of a fan are you of Bruce Campbell? I open with this question because unless you are a big fan, or if you enjoy a bunch of B-grade horror movies, you’re not going to have a lot of fun with My Name is Bruce. I know that Bruce Campbell is a big fan of himself, though, as he directed, wrote, produced and stars in this film, which is about him. I thought at the start it would be very self-congratulatory, but it actually ends up making much more fun of the beloved star than one might initially think.
The film begins the way that many of these types of movies start. A group of kids decides that walking through a graveyard late at night would be a fun thing to do, so they do that and end up awakening a monster that had been asleep for a good number of years. The only one to survive is Jeff (Taylor Sharpe), who happens to be the biggest fan of Bruce Campbell. Meanwhile, the world-famous actor is wrapping up filming on Cave Alien II, and is essentially hating life. His birthday is also coming up, and his agent (played by Ted Raimi, in one of three roles), promises him something special.
So, when Campbell is kidnapped and taken to a strange town, which tells him he needs to slay the awakened monster — the Chinese god of the dead, Guan-Di (James Peck) — he thinks it’s an elaborate birthday fantasy put on by his agent. So, he goofs his way through it, all while making self-deprecating comments about himself and the schlock he often finds himself starring in — like, say, a B-movie in which everything is done as a joke: My Name is Bruce.
So, yes, it’s another campy B-movie where Bruce Campbell is the lead. There’s also a movie within a movie aspect that I won’t get into — see for yourself, as the film gets even sillier toward its finale — but it’s little different from most of his filmography. The only change is that Campbell chose pretty much everything within the film, and it also makes so many references in both plot and in dialogue to his previous works that you know it doesn’t even attempt to take itself seriously.
You also have to be at least somewhat of a fan of these previous outings. Otherwise, you’ll miss the line of in-jokes that populate our movie. The film’s target audience is definitely narrow, and I can’t help but feel if that’s a problem. There are some attempts at jokes that don’t have anything to do with Campbell’s career, but they come across as juvenile, silly, easy, and not very funny. This is a film for fans and fans only, while everyone else should do something else with their time.
It’s pretty much a critic-proof film, as all of the things that are wrong with it are likely intentional: The love interest (Kelly Graham) who has no reason to fall in love and changes personalities so frequently that she must have a disorder; the awful looking gore effects; a bunch of characters who are introduced for no reason other than to bring us exposition and then get killed; the monster’s weakness, which is absolutely ridiculous; Ted Raimi playing potentially racist stereotypes; etc. A lot of those are problems, but they’re done to pay homage to Campbell’s filmography, and to cover up for the insanely low budget.
I thought it was funny, but, then I find myself enjoying these types of movies regardless of how self-referential they are. Often they’re good for a laugh, largely due to the low budget, terrible acting, and so on that My Name is Bruce is mocking. Making it an intentional comedy, one in which the leading actor, who also wrote and directed the thing, is the main attraction and person being made fun of is a brilliant idea, and I found it hilarious.
Actually, the monster, Guan-Di, looks pretty cool for what it is. He’s always in the dark, with some interesting lighting effects behind him and glowing eyes, which makes him look quite good. The majority of the budget probably went into creating him, sure, but it’s a monster that actually looks better than some in the films on Campbell’s resume. He’s not original or interesting in anything but design, but all you need is for him to look cool, right?
Still, your entire ability to enjoy the film is going to be centered on whether or not you like Bruce Campbell or the genre of films in which he typically finds himself. For his part, Campbell is really good at playing himself, and the transformation from egomaniac to … whatever he ends up as — I’m still not sure — is enjoyable. He’s a funny person, too, and it makes sense why his fanbase is so large. If you find yourself in that cult, you’ll be worshiping this film until Campbell makes a sequel.
My Name is Bruce is a self-deprecating film made by and starring Bruce Campbell, B-movie icon. For what it is, it’s a really funny movie that makes fun of Campbell’s entire career — save for, perhaps, his cameos in the Spider-man films. It borrows plot elements from a lot of movies he was in previously, and it makes more references than it could if it wanted to include anyone not in the know. I had a good time, and if you’re a fan of Campbell, you probably will as well, and should definitely see this movie.