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Canuxploitation!

Elvis Gratton II: Miracle Memphis

1999, Starring Julien Poulin, Yves Trudel, Barry Blake. Directed by Pierre Falardeau.





The 1985 TV movie Elvis Gratton: King de Kings combined three short films starring producer Julien Poulin as the quintessential Canadian caricature, Elvis Gratton. This big screen sequel probably wouldn't be considered Canuxploitation in Quebec, where it grossed more than Star Wars Episode 1 in theaters. However, like Les Boys and it's sequels, Elvis Gratton is doomed to obscurity outside La Belle Province, at least partially because of it's separatist undertones. That, and many of the film's messages about Quebec film make Elvis Gratton II a perfect candidate for this site.

Bob "Elvis" Gratton is a buffoon of enormous proportions. Obviously meant as a ridiculous satire on Federalist Quebeckers (a reporter calls the late Mordecai Richler an Elvis Gratton- wanna-be), Bob is an overweight, afro-wigged Elvis impersonator obsessed by all things ultra-American. Disneyland, McDonalds, big cars, and cold hard cash are the only things that make him want to get up in the morning to eat his 'spaghett' covered in Campbell's tomato soup.

Having died in the first film, the movie begins with Bob Gratton being brought back to life and his wife abducted by aliens. He is taken to a hospital, where the doctors explain to reporters that they are at a loss for why Bob appears to have aged 14 years. Except for this to work, the film should continue where the last left off in 1985, right? Elvis Gratton II obviously ignores this fact.

In the hospital he meets up with Mo, Bob's permanently toqued, cigar chomping brother who only mumbles unintelligibly. Bob suggests he talks like a "backed up toilet," although he also claims later that Mo speaks Japanese, and " fluent bilingual." Bob and Mo accidently flatline the old man in the next hospital bed in an elaborate joke that includes filling IVs with cocktails. When Bob sticks a liquor filled IV needle in the man's arm, he comes back to life, and a nurse proclaims "It's a miracle!" Bob starts looking at his miracle-producing hands and starts telling Mo how they are going to make " a shitload of money."

At this point I thought, OK, here's the plot: Bob goes to Memphis, performs some great miracles, makes lots of money, rescues his wife, and everyone is happy. Wrong. The beginning of the movie has nothing to do with the rest really, except to establish that Bob is alive. He and Mo go bass fishing at his trailer in northern Quebec when suddenly a big Hollywood producer comes by and proposes a huge comeback tour. This leads to several comic scenes including Bob arguing and swearing at a talking limousine, Bob trying to learn English better, Bob having a style makeover and generally trying to relaunch his career. Finally, he goes on a world tour in a purple jump suit adorned with ads (the producer told him that he can make money with product placement) and a Canadian flag on his ass. He is seen performing one musical number, while the names of cities flash by the screen.

When he gets back to Canada, the Gratton legend is bigger than ever. Bob and Mo get government grants to start Gratton International. Their new company merchandises a variety of products such as Gratton mustard (with a free condom in every jar), and the Elvis Gratton slot machine/toaster. A director from France starts filming a biography of Elvis Gratton, and Bob goes on a book signing tour. The funniest scene in the film takes place when Bob visits one of his new fast food restaurants. With gigantically portioned meals, white trash clientele and dubious product tie-ins for his new film King Kong Contre le King des Kings, this satire of Anglophone culture is strongly conceived and very humourous. The film ends at Gratton World, Bob's private theme park " like Michael Jackson but without the children."

A rule of thumb in Elvis Gratton is that you can safely assume that anything Bob likes is being insulted, which is why when he says that Jean Charest is "his guy," you know that it's not exactly the belief of Poulin. At one point Bob watches a TV news segment on how the Prime Minister has signed a film distribution deal with China, which causes the head of the film board to suggest that they start making Quebec films in Chinese. Why not, since they made films in English to give them wider appeal to the rest of North America? Poulin's obvious message here is that Canadians should be making films for their own people, and I think it is an important point for all of our directors to consider, not just those from Quebec. What makes this film distinct from even English Canadian comedies is that Elvis Gratton is political satire without the This Hour has 22 Minutes/Air Farce assumption that the audience thinks that Shiela Copps has a funny name. Even if you don't sympathize with separatists, you will still laugh at the separatist jokes.

There is some controversy over why this film was actually made. Some claim that Poulin didn't want to make this film, but was trying to raise capital for another project. As such, this film has been criticized for not being as funny as the original TV movie. And while I haven't seen the original, I have no problem agreeing with that-- the character of Elvis Gratton is suited more to sketch comedy, and this film sometimes seems like a bunch of back-to-back sketches. It's like a film based on a Saturday Night Live character. Gratton gets into a series of comic situations, but this film really ends up nowhere. With 20 minutes left in the movie, Poulin actually appears on screen in the cutting room, arguing with director Pierre Falardeau (who plays Mo) on how to end the picture. Regardless, this is a funny movie of particular interest to those outside of Quebec, especially if you have not seen much popular Quebec cinema.


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