Bruce Campbell, an actor who won his way into the hearts of a legion of horror fans with the (basically) heroic role of Ash in Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy, lampooned his own B-movie-heavy career by starring in, producing, and directing this film, in which he plays a down-and-out, dimwitted, alcoholic, highly conceited version of himself.
The screenplay, written by comic book veteran Mark Verheiden, is primarily set in the small town of Gold Lick, Oregon, population 339 and counting… down… That’s where a young man named Jeff accidentally unleashes the scythe-wielding spirit of Guan-Di, a Chinese deity and the patron saint of bean curd, who is out to avenge the death of Chinese miners buried in a cave-in a hundred years earlier.
As this supernatural force proceeds to whittle down the population of Gold Lick one-by-one, obsessive Bruce Campbell fan Jeff realizes that the only person who can handle something like this is the hero of movies like Evil Dead, Bubba Ho-tep, Maniac Cop, Terminal Invasion, Alien Apocalypse, etc. He convinces his fellow townspeople of this as well.
But the real Bruce Campbell doesn’t quite live up to his screen persona. Going home and swilling Shemp’s brand liquor with his dog Sam ‘n’ Rob (named after Sam Raimi and his collaborator Rob Tapert) in his downtime from the production of Cave Alien 2, in which he’s playing a character named Jack Stryker (also the name of the hero of the Campbell co-written film Thou Shalt Not Kill… Except), Bruce is rude and dismissive of Jeff when he shows up at the door of his sad little house trailer and asks for help. So Jeff knocks him out and kidnaps him.
Jeff takes him back to Gold Lick, where Bruce quickly comes to believe that this is all a show being put on for his benefit, a surprise birthday present from his ineffectual agent. So he goes along with the citizens’ monster-hunting plans… And finds himself in completely over his head when he realizes that Guan-Di is real, and really dangerous.
When first faced with the powerful, murderous spirit, Bruce is cowardly and inept, but by the time the third act rolls around, he steps up to redeem himself and become a hero for the first time ever in his real life.
My Name Is Bruce is a really fun movie, a hilarious parody of Campbell’s career and a tribute to the fans that have elevated him to heroic status. To a certain segment of the film-watching community, Bruce Campbell is the greatest star working today, and he is seen as heroically as Jeff sees him by many fans. Campbell’s film heroism is even referenced in movies he had nothing to do with, like writer/director’s 2000 film The Dead Hate the Living, in which a character besieged by zombies ponders aloud, “What would Bruce Campbell do?” A line which is repeated within My Name Is Bruce.
Campbell is highly entertaining as this goofball send-up of himself, and the film is packed with references to both his better movies and his lesser movies. To fill out the supporting cast, Campbell turned to several familiar faces he had worked with before, including Danny Hicks (Evil Dead II, Intruder), Tim Quill (Army of Darkness), and Ted Raimi in three different roles. As Bruce’s ex-wife Cheryl, who his agent is sleeping with, Campbell cast Ellen Sandweiss, who co-starred with him in The Evil Dead as a character named Cheryl. Bruce also meets a potential love interest along the way, Jeff’s mom Kelly, and newcomer Grace Thorsen did a great job in this role.
Campbell was so committed to bringing this story to life that, as documented in the DVD special features, he even went so far as to build downtown Gold Lick as a backlot on his own property in Oregon. Gold Lick is still believed to exist, a tiny western town on Bruce Campbell’s own personal land.
For fans of Bruce Campbell and of his career, My Name Is Bruce is a definite must-see. I was so determined to see it as soon as possible that, during its limited theatrical release in October of 2008, I even took a 90 minute drive to see a screening followed by a Q&A with Campbell. The movie and Bruce Campbell himself were totally worth the 180 mile roundtrip, neither disappointed in the slightest.
The only disappointment comes in the fact that the sequel Campbell announced some years ago, Bruce Campbell vs. Frankenstein, still hasn’t been produced. Now that Burn Notice, the TV series on which Campbell co-starred, has reached the end of its seven season run, perhaps Campbell will have more time to finally bring that sequel to life.