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Audiobook Review: Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way
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Week of Geek: Bruce Campbell

Make Love! The Bruce Campbell Way AudioBookMake Love The Bruce Campbell Way
Written & Narrated by Bruce Campbell
St. Martin’s Griffin
Available Now

Bruce Campbell, exploitation movie stalwart and man-god to millions, has always secretly dreamed of transcending his B-flick actor trappings and hitting the Hollywood big time. One day after his literary agent Barry simultaneously rejects his proposal for a book about walking and proposes that he instead write a book about relationships, his acting agent — also named Barry — calls Bruce and informs him that he has been invited to audition for a major supporting role in an upcoming romantic comedy for Paramount Pictures starring Richard Gere and Renee Zellweger and directed by Mike Nichols called Let’s Make Love. Bruce is wary of the offer at first but a trip to New York City and a chance to meet a great director proves too irresistible to pass up.

At the audition he uncomfortably encounters just about every big name actor in the movie industry and when he reads for the role of Foyl Whipple, a salt-of-the-earth doorman at a high-end New York hotel always ready with sage advice and an open door, it does not go too well. Returning to his rural Oregon home in what he believes to be defeat, Bruce is surprised to get the news that he won the part. It turns out that Mike Nichols is a big fan of his and wants to be the one to give the struggling actor his big break in mainstream film. This gesture on the filmmaker’s part inspires the star of the Evil Dead trilogy and Assault on Dome 4 to prepare for this role the way a professional actor would. His dedication to perfecting his acting craft leads Bruce to indulge in such Method insanity as working for a day as an actual doorman to get a feel for the character and informing the cast and crew of Let’s Make Love that he would like to be referred to only by his character name, Foyl Whipple, a move that does not endear him at all to his colleagues at first.

Bruce’s luck starts to take a turn for the better as he gets to know his director and co-stars. He gives Richard Gere a tutorial in staging a really exciting fight scene (with plenty of bumps and bruises to show for their efforts), instructs Renee Zellweger in not being afraid to enhance her cleavage on camera, and opens up Mike Nichols and cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond to the idea of using a shaky cam (the camera rig Sam Raimi used to simulate the demon point of view in the Evil Dead movies). Bruce means well but his ideas start to have a negative effect on the production as what began as a classy light farce of love in the Big Apple mutates into an over-the-top riot of green screen stunts and flailing mechanical dummies, all to the tune of an endlessly skyrocketing budget. Meanwhile, Bruce uses his overabundance of down time from the shoot to conduct further intensive research into various aspects of his character and interact with a variety of interesting characters, from a shady “relationship expert” to a team of wedding planners who could very well have organized crime connections.

Unbeknownst to our working stiff hero dark forces within the walls of Paramount Pictures with a blood-dripping chainsaw to grind with Bruce are conspiring to derail the film’s production and place the blame squarely at the feet of an actor primarily known for cheesy Sci-Fi Channel movies and numerous failed television series with the ridiculous claim that he carries a “B-Movie Virus.” Realizing that becoming the fall guy for the collapse of an A-list Hollywood film would signal the end of his career, Bruce sets out to find the person or persons responsible for his predicament and clear his good name before he becomes the talk of the town and not in a good way. In the meantime he will have various increasingly awkward run-ins with the United States Secret Service, be challenged to an old-fashioned duel with muskets at a Southern gentlemen’s club, and will find that his best friends in this cold and cruel world are the people who have made him popular over the years”¦ his fans.

The tenuous relationship between cinematic art and Hollywood commerce has always made for prime satire, whether it be the caustic, razor-sharp Swiftian The Player or the more gentle and affectionately witty Bowfinger. Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way, the eponymous B-movie matinee idol’s first work of fiction after his insanely addictive autobiography If Chins Could Kill became a New York Times bestseller, falls comfortably into the latter category even though Campbell has never shied away from voicing his contempt for mainstream movie-making in Hollywood. Who among us has not dreamed of getting a personalized invitation to the big party, of losing ourselves in the intoxicating fever dream of making movies? Bruce, despite his background in hyperkinetic horror flicks and goofy comedies, has ambitions to be one of the acting greats and if playing a chivalrous doorman from the Deep South as second banana to a pair of pampered movie stars detached from reality can be his ticket to the big time then he is going to take full advantage of this golden opportunity. Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way is a wild, hilarious, and sweet-natured adventure in the glamorous and chaotic world in front of and behind the Panavision lens told as only a cynical and endearing wiseass like Bruce Campbell could. The story is a frothy blend of sprawling comic mayhem and insightful show business memoir with Campbell skillfully working many of his observations on being a working actor into the entertaining narrative.

The book is fun enough but for Rykodisc’s audiobook presentation Campbell decided to eschew the long prevalent single reader format and instead mount an ambitious radio play adaptation of his novel complete with a full ensemble cast consisting of actors he hired out of California and Oregon (most of them playing multiple roles) and a soundtrack loaded with accomplished music cues and sound effects meshing beautifully with the performances. Campbell’s performance stands out from the rest because although he does not have to play multiple characters in this production he is in practically every scene of the story and he never once loses his trademark smartass cool. He is even able to play up his own personal strengths as an actor and a human being. When Campbell played himself in the recently released My Name is Bruce (which he also directed) it was essentially a self-roasting with the actor playing an exaggerated parody of his on-screen persona. In Make Love he is much kinder to himself because with every other character in the story playing the material as broad as humanly possible Campbell would just get swallowed up by this freewheeling carnival if he camped it up himself. I could not find a full cast list for the audio book online but having been a big fan of Campbell’s films, particularly his collaborations with Sam Raimi, I immediately recognized the voices of two of the Mighty Chin’s frequent co-stars from the past: Ted Raimi (Sam’s younger brother) and Danny Hicks. If there is a male speaking part in the Make Love audio play then chances are either Raimi or Hicks is playing that part. Both actors were born for radio acting because they show impressive acting range and are incredibly funny in almost every role they play. Hicks even gets to play a version of himself in the story as “Lanny Sticks,” an bitter old acting buddy of Bruce’s who works as a Paramount security guard. Even the actors whose names are unknown to me give fantastic performances in their multiple speaking parts.

Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way is a cool comedic adventure that I love revisiting time and again. If you have got six hours to kill sometime, give this wonderfully realized audio play a chance and prepare to be entertained.

2 Comments »

  1. Sounds pretty entertaining. Good review!!

    Comment by Jerry — June 5, 2009 @ 9:55 pm

  2. I want this SO bad!!!

    Comment by Sierra — June 6, 2009 @ 11:05 am

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