As much as I love Bruce Campbell – and I love Bruce Campbell like Kandarian demons love swallowing souls and deflowering virgins with creeper vines – this feature-length send-up of the beloved genre actor's onscreen persona is a dull, tired mess. It's not that Campbell – who here directs from a script by Mark Verheiden – has lost any of the lantern-jawed, comic machismo that made him such a pleasure to watch in, say, Sam Raimi's Evil Dead
trilogy or Don Coscarelli's smartly bizarre Bubba Ho-Tep
. The disappointment derives more from a lack of necessity from the get-go. I mean, Campbell's already well-known for not taking either himself or his frequently lowbrow filmic résumé very seriously (doubters need only check out his recent turn as the spokesman for Old Spice cologne), and thus this severely over-the-top self-parody comes off as pretty much pointless. Campbell casts himself as a boorish, egotistical horndog with a wicked bad drinking problem. His career (managed by Sam Raimi's brother Ted) is on the skids, his fans pester him and smell bad, and his life is in shambles. Early on, he slurps down a dog bowl of Shemp's Old Tyme Whiskey before drunk-dialing true love Cheryl (Sandweiss, aka the flora-fucked Cheryl in 1981's The Evil Dead
). That's the kind of semiwacky in-jokery that flows throughout this film like so much pus from a squashed eyeball. Soon enough, Campbell is spirited away by teen goth Jeff (Sharpe), whose hometown of Gold Lick is being overrun by, of all things, the vengeful, murderous spirit of an ancient Chinese demon. Wha?! Hey – it doesn't make any less
sense than Raimi's Kandarian demoniacs, right? The rest of the film unravels as Campbell is enlisted as monster slayer, even though almost every other character in the cast – with the exception of the adoring teen gothling – already realize that Bruce Campbell the man and Bruce Campbell the actor have very, very little in common. Die-hard fans of Campbell's many genre outings will no doubt have a field day picking up on the 1,001 references to his long career ("Groovy!"), but anyone else – or fans of his marginally more actorly work in Raimi's Spider-Man
series – is almost sure to tire of the whole Shemp schtick well before the closing crawl. Not so groovy after all.