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Trading Places

Memphis the week of August 10 is sure to be a rockin’ good time.  It’s the memorial of Elvis’ death thirty-five years ago and a celebration of his life and music.

Starring Bruce Campbell as Elvis!

Elvis impersonators will abound. In my humble opinion, however, none will best Bruce Campbell, now of cable network USA’s Burn Notice, in the 2002 comedy cum horror movie Bubba Ho-Tep.

Barely hanging on at Shady Rest, a convalescence home in Mud Creek, Texas, where the bugs are “the size of a peanut butter and banana sandwich,” Campbell’s Elvis uses a walker, prefers a bedpan to getting up to go to the john, and sports a blister on the tip of his pecker.  He hasn’t had a hard-on in years.

How could Elvis have become such a bubba, a term defined in the opening credits as a cracker, a red neck, or a trailer park resident?

The sad story begins in the seventies when Elvis trades places with impersonator Sebastian Haff, hoping for a better life.  He has a way back, but the contract by which he can reestablish his true identity goes up in a whoosh of flames when a propane fire breaks out in his trailer.

His situation worsens when Haff dies. “Problem is, he had a bad heart,” Elvis explains. “He liked drugs, too. Liked them more than I did.”

Elvis has no recourse but to take his act on the road, continuing to impersonate Haff impersonating himself. He’s enjoying himself until he has an accident.  “I was gyrating’, see, taking’ care of business,” and then he falls off the stage and breaks his hip.  What’s an Elvis impersonator with a broken hip?  It’s downhill from there.

Not until his fellow inmate, played by Ossie Davis, who believes he’s JFK, calls upon Elvis for assistance does he get his mojo back and becomes the hero he always wanted to be.  Together they vanquish an evil, cowboy hat-wearing Egyptian mummy who is sucking the souls from their fellow residents. They both die at the end, but they’re at peace.

There’s no sound track in Bubba Ho-Tep.  No Elvis songs.  Not even a few chords of “Heartbreak Hotel.”  For that you have to go to Memphis.

It’s now or next year.  Elvis Week is an annual event.

© 2012 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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