Film Review: 'Lonely Street' has dignified depiction of elderly Elvis

Robert Patrick portrays an elderly Elvis Presley in the movie 'Lonely Street.'

Robert Patrick portrays an elderly Elvis Presley in the movie "Lonely Street."

In what will be its only theatrical booking prior to its DVD release next week on the Echo Bridge Home Entertainment label, “Lonely Street” opens Friday at the Hollywood 20 Cinema, in an attempt to attract the fans who are in town for “Elvis Week.”

The movie — a comic murder mystery that casts Robert Patrick as a healthy, septuagenarian Elvis — ends its exclusive run on Aug. 16, which marks the 32nd anniversary of Presley’s death.

 'I love Elvis, the whole Elvis story,' says Robert Patrick (seen in 'Lonely Street' with Lindsay Price). He watched concerts to get a better grasp of the King's appeal.

"I love Elvis, the whole Elvis story," says Robert Patrick (seen in "Lonely Street" with Lindsay Price). He watched concerts to get a better grasp of the King's appeal.

The booking was arranged by John Jerit, whose Bartlett-based American Paper Optics company is one of the nation’s largest suppliers of paper 3D glasses. Jerit and his wife, Susan Jerit, are credited as co-executive producers on “Lonely Street” because Jerit was one of the prime investors in the $1.7-million film, which was shot by writer-director Peter Ettinger in New Mexico and on sets in Los Angeles.

The direct-to-DVD route taken by “Lonely Street” seems inevitable. The movie’s star (and co-producer) is Jay Mohr, who plays Bubba Mabry, an Albuquerque-by-way-of-Mississippi “two-bit gumshoe” (as he is called in the film) introduced in a series of novels by Steve Brewer. (The movie pays homage to Mabry’s creater by having the detective visit the “Brewer Library.”)

With its bright lighting (even night scenes feature an attractive neon glow) and cast of familiar-faced non-marquee names (former “Ghostbuster” Ernie Hudson; Joe Mantegna as a sleazy record producer; Mohr’s wife, Nikki Cox, as a cleavage-exposing cougar newshound), “Lonely Street” plays sort of like an unsold comedy-mystery TV pilot that was retrofitted with profanity and jokes about vomit, flatulence and genitalia in hopes of attracting theatrical interest. The occasional gross-out humor (complete with sound effects) is the worst thing about the film; it’s sometimes accompanied by Mohr’s often redundant voiceover narration, much of which seems to have written in post-production, in an attempt to spice up the action.

For example, the scene in which Bubba meets his mysterious client is directed to that the audiences shares the sleuth’s shock when “Mr. Aaron” is revealed to be Elvis Presley. The narration almost wrecks the scene, however, by telling the audience what it can see with its own eyes; it’s like sitting in front of a guy at the movies who says things like “He’s got a gun” when a character onscreen draws a gun.

That “Lonely Street” nevertheless emerges as okay sub-Elmore Leonard entertainment is due primarily to Patrick’s dignified, respectful interpretation of the 70-something Elvis as a man who’s given up drugs and fried foods for wheat grass, Tai Chi and, apparently, inner peace.

An interesting companion piece to another Bubba/Elvis movie, “Bubba Ho-tep,” a horror-comedy that cast Bruce Campbell as a senior-citizen Presley, “Lonely Street” finds Elvis contemplating a comeback after faking his death three decades earlier — a disappearance that enabled him to escape the self-parody of his final years while becoming a bigger star than ever before. “I’m everywhere and nowhere, all at the same time,” he says. “People like Elvis again.”

Unfortunately, even in “death,” Elvis has to cope with intrusive tabloid photographers, so he hires Mabry to watch out for him — a move that eventually turns both the detective and the King into murder suspects.

Despite being basically unrecognizable in remarkable prosthetic makeup created by Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr., Patrick is able to put across Elvis’ thoughtfulness as well as his humor — and in a convincing Elvis accent, too. “Jesus, it really is you!” a reporter (Lindsay Price) exclaims after meeting the King. Replies Elvis: “I’m not Jesus, but I appreciate the comparison.”

— John Beifuss, 529-2394

© 2009 Go Memphis. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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