Saturday, September 1, 2012

"From...the director of MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING"
That should be warning enough.

I was aimlessly channel surfing this morning and chanced upon this flick (already in progress; about midway through). With Life offering nothing better at that particular moment (it was the early AM and I couldnt sleep), and with a title like that, how can any self-respecting Elvis fan resist at least giving this a look-see.

I am predisposed to hate movies that utilize Elvis in some way (as a plot contrivance; as a actual character). In most cases, these movies are made by folks who don't listen to Elvis or know anything about him or his music, and/or know him only as the pop culture caricature that he has become (complete with "Than'ya verr much"). I remember seeing a movie called HEARTBREAK HOTEL that featured David Keith as Elvis circa 1972 but wearing the gold lame suit from the 1950s (see the cover of Elvis Greatest Hits Vol 2 to see the suit I mean). Elvis never wore that gold lame suit in the 1970s!! A movie that makes that kind of factual faux-pas really irks me and will have me writing the movie off rather quickly (it didnt help that HEARTBREAK HOTEL, as a movie, just, how can I put this succinctly, sucked anyway).

I am also predisposed to hate movies that utilize Elvis impersonators and that sub-culture.  Elvis impersonators are invariably used for cheap laughs, as if the sight of someone (say, a little old lady) dressed in one of those 1970s Elvis jumpsuits is riotously funny.  There is a movie to be made about, or using, Elvis impersonators, one that understands this sub-culture, one that lets the impersonator(s) have some dignity and be a fully formed characters, but for now we will have to suffer through filmmakers' myopic view of Elvis impersonators.

ELVIS HAS LEFT THE BUILDING includes both the "real" Elvis (in a flashback, the 7-year old version of the character played as an adult by Kim Basinger meets the 1950s Elvis; suffice to say the actor playing this "real" Elvis is not up to the task, looking and sounding nothing like 1950s Elvis and making one long for any of the actors used in the laughable Elvis dramatization segments that dotted THIS IS ELVIS) as well as a plethora of Elvis impersonators (again played for cheap laughs).

As mentioned, I came in at the middle of the film so I am hard-pressed to tell you what was going on, or why (I can tell you, its a romantic comedy), so lets look to the Wikipedia description of the plot (my editorializing appears in CAPS):

"Elvis Has Left the Building is a 2004 film directed by Joel Zwick and starring Kim Basinger as a cosmetics saleswoman who accidentally serially kills Elvis impersonators as they travel to a convention in Las Vegas. John Corbett (WHY DO PEOPLE CAST THIS GUY AS A ROMANTIC LEAD? HE IS THE EPITOME OF WHITE BREAD BLAND ZERO SCREEN CHARISMA AND MAN HE IS NOT A COMEDIAN) plays an advertising executive and her love interest. Tom Hanks has a seconds-long cameo appearance as the dead "Mailbox Head" Elvis impersonator (THIS IS THE EXACT POINT AT WHICH I HAPPENED UPON THE FILM; I REPLAYED THIS SCENE TO MAKE SURE THAT WAS TOM HANKS I HAD FLEETINGLY SEEN; YES, YOU READ THAT RIGHT, HE HAD A MAILBOX ON HIS HEAD AND I DONT KNOW WHY). .
The film opens with Harmony (Basinger) driving down a long, winding road, the sounds of Elvis playing all around her. She feels that her life is empty and artificial. She is a traveling cosmetic saleswoman, setting up "Pink Lady" training seminars in the western portion of the United States. When she is asked if she's "one of those Mary Kaye ladies?", she replies, "No, we're pink, they're more salmon." While she is popular and successful selling "Pink Lady," there is nothing real or honest in her life. As Harmony travels around the country, trying to figure out what is missing from her life, Elvis impersonators keep dying in her wake. She is romantically pursued by Miles (Corbett)."

I can add that Harmony is pursued by some cops (or FBI guys), one played by character actor Mike Starr, who is always a welcome presence (and who ultimately dons an Elvis jumpsuit and sings a karaoke version of that DJ-remix version of "A Little Less Conversation" that was popular a few years ago). 

Everyone converges in Vegas at a convention (or something) of Elvis impersonators (en route, Harmony asks directions from Wayne Newton who pops his head out of a car window for a 10-second cameo) and when Miles and Harmony finally get a chance to talk face to face in the parking lot of the hotel hosting the convention, they realize they are in love & their story (and the film) ends rather abruptly.

Wait, sorry, one more thing happens: Denise Richards (ex-Mrs Charlie Sheen) (!) shows up at the convention (I dont know what, if anything, she had to do with the main story) but she dons the Aloha From Hawaii jumpsuit and the final scene is Denise-in-Elvis-jumpsuit and hundreds of Elvis impersonators on the roof of the hotel, chanting at the night sky ("Elvviiiiis, Elviiiisss, Elllllllllvvvvviiiiisssss", or something like that) and chanting and chanting until stars in the night sky (by the miracle of some really cheap special effects) move to form an Elvis constellation (!!) which then proceeds to shoot a lightning bolt at the roof of the hotel which causes it to collapse and presumably kill everyone (!!!!!).

By any standard (putting the whole Elvis angle aside for a moment) this movie is simply lame; the leads have no chemistry and the "comedy" is unfunny (resorting so low as to introduce a character who is an ugly, broadly played caricature of a gay man that illustrates how backwards thinking the filmmakers are). My only point of interest was spotting the cameos: in addition to those already mentioned, Angie Dickinson (still smoking hot at age 70 or however the hell old she is) shows up playing Kim Basinger's Elvis-loving mom!!), Annie Potts (remember her from PRETTY IN PINK?) and TV actors Richard Kind and Pat Morita (actually I looked on IMDB for those last two but I didnt see them in the half of the film I watched; Pat Morita is listed as "Man in Turban").

One last bit of interest: Elvis music does populate the soundtrack. I refer again toWikiPedia for this list 

"These songs appear in the film, listed alphabetically.


Maile Duval said...

Elvis impersonators are among my pet peeves, too. They just provide more fodder for people who enjoy making fun of Elvis and his eccentricities. The only time I didn't mind seeing an impersonator was during this past season of ABC's Castle in which the title character and two NY cops he works with had to impersonate Elvis to get into a casino.
Have you heard about Growing Up In Graceland the new biopic based on Elvis's stepbrother's book?
Jonathan Rhys-Meyers did a decent job playing Elvis in the TV movie about him a few years ago. As I remember, the movie ended with the '68 comeback special.

Maile Duval said...

Even without all of the misrepresentations of Elvis, this sounds like a strange movie!