Saturday, March 23, 2013

Stay Away, Joe

Continuing my endeavor to finish viewing all of Elvis's films, I watched Stay Away, Joe last night. On the positive side, Elvis looked fit and healthy and this film wasn't just a showcase of songs with scenes in between. The Arizona backdrop was quite beautiful. The few songs in the movie actually made sense within the plot. The one song I thought had potential was "All I Needed Was the Rain," which was written by Fred Wise and Ben Weisman, who wrote many of my other favorite Elvis movie songs, such as "Follow That Dream" from Follow That Dream and "Riding the Rainbow" from Kid Galahad.

Aside from these points, the film lacked a strong plot, projected racist stereotypes of Native Americans, and was a generally goofy movie. Burgess Meredith plays Elvis's dumb father who can't seem to do anything right, except maybe drink beer. The grandpa character sits around wearing a blanket all the time and speaks broken English. The overall message seems to be that Native Americans are dysfunctional, lazy drunks. The film begins with a couple of ridiculous scenes: first, Joe Lightcloud (Elvis) returns home and starts wrestling with all of his buddies who showed up to greet him. While they're rolling around in the dirt, there is audible dialogue that sounds like it was recorded separately from the filming, because there's no way they could all make that much sense and not be huffing and puffing. After that there's a beach party at the Lightclouds' shack (in the Arizona desert, mind you) during which everyone gets plastered. One of the partygoers roasts a bull, which is the only bull available to fertilize all of the cows purchased from the government to begin a cattle business. (Yes, you should be rolling your eyes right about now.)

There were a few comedic moments: a 19-year-old dim bulb fawns over Joe and he tries to explain to her that they have to get to know each other before jumping into marriage, but she just doesn't seem to get it. Clearly not too much was going on between the ears. Toward the end of the movie there is a lot of physical comedy, as various characters fall through the hole in the living room floor, put their arms through paper walls, and then finally the whole house caves in. More than many of Elvis's other films, this was an ensemble effort, even though that effort ultimately failed.

I would not recommend this film to anyone other than a devoted Elvis fan who's interested in seeing all of his movies, the good, the bad, and the incomprehensible. This one falls somewhere between the latter two categories.

On the bright side, here's a fun fact: Elvis co-starred with three of the four major stars in Grumpy Old Men (1993): Walter Matthau (King Creole), Ann-Margret (Viva Las Vegas), and Burgess Meredith (Stay Away, Joe). Jack Lemmon clearly missed out!

No comments: