3000 Miles to
review by Joe Barlow, 2 March 2001
Elvis is dead, and it would be
damned kind of us to leave him that way -- especially when the
vehicle for his return to the public eye is an uninspired façade of
a narrative like this. Demian
Lichtenstein’s 3000 Miles to Graceland is the latest
cinematic offering to rape our collective past, cheerfully
exploiting American nostalgia and pillaging the icons of an earlier,
less jaded generation. There’s
nothing wrong with satirizing our heritage when it’s done well --
just take a look at the brilliant Pleasantville, for instance
-- but this film feels less like homage than a cheap attempt to make
whores from our cultural icons for a quick buck. May that be all this film earns at the box office.
The story centers around a group of
hard-nosed thieves who rob a casino while dressed as a gaggle of
Elvis impersonators. All
the film’s main characters are lifted wholesale from the Hollywood
Book of Requisite Action-Movie Stereotypes, including the gang’s
two ringleaders (Kurt Russell and Kevin Costner), whose inability to
agree on the best way to divvy up the loot results in one stale
argument scene after another; a shallow single mother (played with
no stretch whatsoever by Courtney Cox, whose performance here equals
the dramatic range she displayed in Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing
in the Dark” music video); and an army of ever-expendable
secondary characters, who exist here only to bring some name
recognition to the project (Ice
T? In an Elvis movie?
Well, thank yuh. Thank yuh very much.).
The film’s trailer would have you
believe that the majority of the tale revolves around the planning
and execution of the robbery, but don’t be fooled -- the meat of
the story centers more on the aftermath of the heist than the crime
itself, which is over and done with in the opening five minutes.
Unfortunately, the first warning signs of the movie’s
dearth of quality are apparent before this bullet ballet is over.
Lichtenstein, attempting to disguise the film’s
disastrously uneven editing, takes every opportunity to flaunt his
music video roots at us -- the two gunfights which bookend the movie
are constructed with quick jump cuts and needlessly “flashy”
camera shots that would be far more at home on MTV than in a film
aspiring to tell a coherent story.
The poor filmmaker, helming his second feature film with 3000
Miles, doesn’t yet seem to have a grasp on good narrative
storytelling technique, choosing instead to obfuscate the plot
behind stylistic editing and underwhelming camera moves that add
nothing but length to the final film.
But as tedious as the opening
bloodbath is, things only get worse after our merry band of nitwits
hits the highway. As
you might expect, 3000 Miles to Graceland is, in fact, a road
movie about a trip to… Canada?
Yes, you read that correctly.
despite the fact that Graceland plays no part in the film itself,
its spirit does sort of hover over the movie -- a sad, disheveled
icon that once had meaning, but now rots away like so many peanut
butter and ‘nana sandwiches left out in the rain.
(Rather like Presley himself, in the hands of this movie.
It’s sad that Elvis, arguably the first true Sugar Daddy of
rock and roll -- and I’m talking lots of sugar, swee’pea
-- has been forced to “pseudo-star” posthumously in this banal
tale of crime, guns, and Elvis impersonators, which serves less as a
cohesive narrative than a barometer of pain.
This is not the first film to ever feature Elvis
impersonators as an integral part of the plot, but it’s
unquestionably the worst).
The cast is populated by a group of
Hollywood A-list actors, all of whom should have known better.
Kurt Russell and Kevin Costner get the king’s share (no pun
intended) of screen time, and therefore deserve the complete career
derailments that are likely to occur after John P. Consumer gets an
eyeful of this garbage. This
is particularly disappointing -- and surprising -- since Russell
drew critical accolades for his performance of Elvis in John
Carpenter’s 1979 TV miniseries; as such, it’s lamentable that he
comes across so ham-fisted this time around -- not so much
incompetent as begging for attention.
And sadly, Kevin Costner proves
that the dramatic rebound I thought I’d glimpsed in the recent Thirteen
Days is nothing more than a passing fluke.
In 3000 Miles, Costner’s performance as Dances with
Whoppers (his character is actually named Murphy, but admit it, you
like my idea better) comes across not so much as an effective
villain but a reluctant actor; I’ve heard of phoning in a role
before, but Costner here doesn’t even seem to have the coins
needed to place the call. With
starring roles in such recent cinematic disasters as Waterworld
and The Postman under his belt, Kevin Costner proves one
thing in 3000 Miles From Graceland: he has the worst agent in
the known universe.
So, is there anything
positive I can say about this film?
(Joe thinks very, very hard.)
Well, I guess the cars were kinda cool.
And I suppose that there are moments in 3000 Miles From
Graceland that manage to capture the gritty excitement of being
out on the road, with the dust flying up around your car while the
approved soundtrack of rebellion -- rock and roll -- explodes from
your speakers. But with
this material’s painfully inept handling, it might have been
better if the film had choked on that dust instead of cruising into
R - Restricted
Under 17 requires
parent or adult