Thursday, June 14, 2007

Book: Make Love! The Bruce Campbell Way, by Bruce Campbell (2006)

Things have been a bit lax around here on the book front. That’s because I’ve been doing a lot of research reading.

I made room, however, for the latest tome by Bruce Campbell. If you’re at this site, you probably know who Bruce is. Odds are you’ve caught more than a few of his movies. (If you haven’t seen Bubba Ho-Tep, TCB and queue that bad boy up right now.) Currently, he’s onscreen as the highpoint of Spider-Man 3. I link to all of Bruce’s Old Spice commercials, so it stands to reason I’d read all of his literary work. His previous book, If Chins Could Kill, is that rarest of birds, a genuinely interesting Hollywood memoir. That’s because Bruce is brutally forthright about the effort required to be a working actor.

Make Love! is a novel. I’d call it a picaresque influenced by Pirandello, but no doubt Bruce would slap me down for such highfalutin’ talk. He’d say it’s a goof and nothing more.

Bruce – yes, he’s the star of his own novel – finally gets his shot to bust out of the low-budget ghetto when he’s cast in Let’s Make Love!, an A-list romantic comedy directed by Mike Nichols and starring Richard Gere and Renée Zellweger. Bruce isn’t about to blow this opportunity. He insists that everyone call him by his character’s name and throws himself headlong into preparing for his role as a genteel Southerner turned New York doorman. In short order, though, Bruce’s B-movie instincts not only kick in but infect the entire production.

The book is studded with what Bruce calls “graphic sarcasm:” photos, charts, bogus movie posters. Nice to see this kind of po-mo silliness isn’t the exclusive preserve of hipster literary novelists. Many of the episodes, like Bruce’s encounter with a sex ed film mogul, are hilarious. And the Hollywood material is bang-on. Let’s Make Love! is more than a plausible studio movie. I’m pretty sure I caught it on cable one night.

The “B-movie virus” plot doesn’t make much sense, and I can’t help thinking that another draft could have turned this book from an amiable lark into something truly subversive. But that “if only we’d had more time!” feeling is in keeping with Bruce’s B-movie roots, and I’ll bet that’s how he wants it.