Published Dec 01, 2002It seems somehow appropriate that on the 25th anniversary of the king of rock and roll's death, the "true" story of what happened to Elvis Aaron Presley should finally see the light of day. Or at least the "true" story as writer Joe R. Lansdale sees it, a vision that is brilliantly facilitated by Phantasm director Don Coscarelli and the god of everything, Bruce Campbell (Army of Darkness). Forget the biographies, forget the tell-alls, forget the movies, as Bubba Ho-Tep finally tears the veil from the confusing and confounding mystery that as enveloped Elvis's faithful ever since his "death." The shocker is that Elvis isn't dead, no, he's actually alive, having switched identities with one of his legion of impersonators, and he isn't living in the lap of splendiferous opulence that would befit "the king," but in a shady retirement home in Texas. How did it all go so terribly wrong for the king? Well, the rub of all of this is that it was Elvis's impersonator who so ignominiously passed away in a washroom in 1977, and all of the "true" king's legal documents that would have proven his identity and allowed him to reclaim his throne went up in a burst of flame in a BBQing accident. The Elvis of today is old, crotchety, has a bad hip, a cancerous sore on his penis that oozes puss and is played so incredibly well by Campbell that Campbell transcends acting and literally becomes "the king," or at least the old and crotchety version. And, obviously, no one actually believes that he's Elvis. Things wouldn't be so bad for "the king" during the twilight of his years, all things considered, except that the particular funeral home is terrorised by a soul-sucking mummy that is preying upon its denizens. What's a king, or "the king," actually, to do? TCB (take care of business), even if he can only walk with the help of a walker, and he teams up with another resident who believes he's JFK (Ossie Davis), although now black and wheelchair-bound, to destroy Bubba Ho-Tep before he steals their souls. It is an excellent idea, if not a totally absurd and slightly surreal one, and makes for a strong movie with great performances that is far more character-driven and introspective than one would assume. Campbell is awesome as Elvis, as is Ossie Davis as JFK, and despite the absurdity of the material, Coscarelli plays it pretty straight, examining the effects of old age on even the greatest of men with a sympathetic bent, knowing he'll someday be using the walker. However, Bubba Ho-Tep does drag with its pacing at times, despite its hour-and-a-half running time, and occasionally looks its low-budget, B-movie pedigree a little too much for its own good. Still, with an idea this good, and strong performances from Campbell and Davis, one can only say, "hail to the king."