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The Many Faces of Kurt Russell: ELVIS (1979)

Every day this week, Meredith Grau will be reviewing a different movie starring the enigmatic Kurt Russell. We start off with Russell stepping into “The King of Rock and Roll’s” velvet jumpsuit in Elvis.

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by Meredith Grau — http://lalalandhistory.blogspot.com/

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Best Bad Kurt Quote:
[The sound of air swishing as wartime Elvis does air karate]
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I’ll begin by saying that my DVD player did not want me to watch this movie. Not at all. It kept skipping repeatedly, stopping, getting all pixelated. It was a warning. A warning that I should have obeyed, but when has the prospect of watching a bad movie ever stopped me? (Once: Crossroads, but that is beside the point).
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You hear the name Kurt Russell, and automatically you think, “Oh, yeah, character actor.” (Sarcasm: it’s always there for you). No, Kurt’s gift is that he is the same guy over and over– the likable, slightly ditzy dude with sunshine in his eyes of crystal blue persuasion. He’s just wonderful. He fills your heart with Hakuna Matata. And hey, when he tries to go dark, it only gets better. Who didn’t want to crack up and slap Snake Pliskin on the back and say, “Oh Kurt, cut the crap, you knucklehead you. Let’s go play ping-pong!” Like shaggy the dog, he would be certain to follow, leaving a path of rainbows behind him. Still, he sometimes has made the error of giving “real acting” the ol’ college try. An ambitious guy, he once set his sights on Elvis Presley. Who in their right mind would even try to pull that off? No one. Only Kurt “Never Quite Right” Russell.
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I won’t bother with plot. It’s about Elvis. It isn’t historically accurate or compelling, it teaches you nothing new about the King of Rock, and it plays out like a soap opera but worse: a three hour soap opera. The disconcerting effect actually makes sense, considering that John Carpenter, the King of Horror, was chosen to direct it. So, instead of a masked psycho-beast killing horny teens, Kurt Russell, with a pompadour as his weapon, kills rock ‘n’ roll. We, as the audience, are the true victims. Also, Shelley Winters makes an appearance as Elvis’s mom and does her best Jabba the Hutt impression. It’s gross, and I daresay unnecessary. Still, hearing Kurt say “Mama” in his Elvis voice multiple times is just about the greatest soundbite you’ll ever hear. (It also makes a great ringtone, if you’re ever looking for unique Birthday gift ideas).
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Anywho, Kurt’s performance is ridiculous and depthless, awkward and over-mannered, and while his Elvis voice was better than expected, it only serves to make you laugh instead of pulling you in. (Seriously, ping-pong? Skeeball? Come on, dude, snap out of it)! The sound editing is also terrible, and when Kurt “sings” as Elvis, his mouth never quite matches the recorded lyrics. When he does Elvis’s token, knee-shakin’, groin thrusting dance, he just looks like a crazy marionette being operated by Ozzy Osborne (after he’s snorted ten coke bumps and a trail of ants). Kurt is adorable, but he’s not exactly Daniel Day-Lewis. At his most emotive, he tears his shirt open for no reason and breathes deeply, pushing out his perky breasts in heated self-reflection. He was miffed about… something. I don’t remember what. This bold strike of acting was, in the end, just another great giggle moment, which I’m sure he wasn’t aiming for.
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This movie wasn’t like watching paint dry; it was like watching an unopened can of paint, just sitting there on the shelf, doing nothing, unless occasionally put on that vibrating, mixing thing. Still, that’s as exciting as it gets. The can just takes up space. Just like this TV movie takes up space in the vault of cinematic history. Nice try, Kurt. Now, d’ya wanna play fetch? Let’s play fetch! Leave the Elvis impressions to Bruce Campbell.
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Rating:
 
2 out of 5 Rhinestone Melvins
kurt-russell-elvis kurt-russell-elvis
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