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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Entertaining, but confused
on October 9, 2007
I'm a casual fan of Bruce Campbell, meaning I'll see Bubba Ho-tep or Evil Dead II to watch his performance but draw the line at Mindwarp. I had high hopes for this book after If Chins Could Kill, Campbell's fun, optimistic memoirs reflecting on his B-movie life, which is actually on my top ten list of all time (and yes, I have read more than ten books). I also liked Man With a Screaming Brain, which Campbell wrote; in its own twisted Z-grade way, it was a fine example of good storytelling. I hesitate to say that I was disappointed, but I'm afraid I can't hold his first novel in the same esteem as the other two.
The premise, just to get us started, is simple: Bruce, by chance, is cast as the third lead in a big-budget mainstream comedy, opposite Richard Gere and Renee Zellwegger, and helmed by Mike Nicols (best known as director of The Graduate). This is, of course, a dream role; as Mike explains, "This is the kind of role the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor was created for." The rest of the book follows Bruce as he, determined not to blow his one shot at an A-list rating, travels from one zany location to the next, meeting a variety of experts to nail down various aspects of his charcter, Floyd, the sagacious doorman. Meanwhile, as filming progresses, Campbell's creative input gives birth to a "B-movie virus", the side effects of which include gratuitous fight scenes, revealing costumes on the leading lady, and stilted dialogue.
The main flaw of the novel is that it never quite decides what it's trying to be. With the plot, Campbell could have made a smart Hollywood satire in the vein of The Player or even Sunset Boulevard, but in the book's final stage that element is only half-conceived. Overlapping this is a rant/essay format, wherein Bruce grinds the plot to a halt to pontificate on the craft of acting or the role of communication in a relationship. This works in the loose, disjointed form of autobiography, since it's basically a series of loosely connected stories, but when one is trying to craft a single coherent storyline, it really disperses the focus. Another layer is that of the cheesy B-movie, which interjects itself from time to time in the most (intentionally) ridiculous ways, such as a random carchase, a stint undercover in disguise, and a grand finale shootout. If Bruce had singled out one of these approaches to drive the plot, he probably could have gotten away with using the others to give the book tone. By trying to give equal screen time, as it were, to all of them, he doesn't really cover any one in a satisfactory manner.
The other problem is that Bruce doesn't really make the transition from film to prose in the most graceful manner. Being funny in a movie or in a conversation is leagues away from being funny in a book. The dialogue and slapstick might have worked extraordinarily well onscreen, but aren't that effective transcribed, verbatim, into printed form. Bruce probably should have read Mark Twain, Douglas Adams, or even Christopher Moore to learn more about what sort of humor works in a novel and what doesn't.
The best part of Make Love is probably the "graphic sarcasm" by Craig "Kif" Sanborn, which basically consists of funny pictures with sardonic captions reflecting whatever is going on in the story at that moment. Sad to say, I got more laughs out of these than in the text itself.
I suppose I'm probably going to get bombarded with "not helpfuls" by defensive Campbell fans who can believe the man can do no wrong. I have a lot of respect for Bruce; I think he's one of the most talented and hardworking men in his field, and as a writer he at least has potential, if only he takes the time and care to develop it. I just think this one needed a few rewrites, that's all.