Elvis Gratton II : Miracle à Memphis (1999)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Elvis Gratton II : Miracle à Memphis</strong> (1999)

(In French, On TV, January 2019) Whew, what a movie. The most useful piece of background information in discussing Elvis Gratton II: Miracle à Memphis is that it was a consciously commercial endeavour, trying to capitalize on the success of quasi-legendary Québécois character Elvis Gratton in order to finance writer/director Pierre Falardeau’s next and riskier project, the pro-independence historical drama 15 février 1839. To this end, this sequel maximizes everything that Gratton stood for—more slapstick, more bigotry, more anti-federalist sentiment, more satirical content. The script wastes no time in establishing a broad canvas for the film’s gags—as a resurrected Gratton becomes a media sensation, an American talent manager takes over his career to enable him to become a rock star, restaurant owner, bestselling writer, real-estate mogul, without compromising the essentially small-time vulgarity of the character. It’s really not subtle nor successful: Gags are quoted verbatim from the previous film with slightly more polish, laugh-free sequences are dragged on far longer than necessary, and the political content is blatantly shoved in viewers’ faces. The episodic nature of the plot enables the film to play without much of a dramatic arc, so much so that the film eventually ends with a discussion between director and star/screenwriter Julien Poulin as they ponder how they’re going to end the movie. Their consensus is to blatantly laugh at viewers, which they’ve been doing anyway. While such a scene does get a few chuckles (along with the film’s funniest character; a smart car openly contemptuous of its owner), Elvis Gratton II: Miracle à Memphis is a wild, uncontrolled film that wallows in the same ignorance that it attempts to criticize. Once again, the character of Gratton becomes not an object of derision, but a folk hero of sorts that tranquillizes the masses rather than unnerve them. Faladreau passed away in 2009, and his beloved separatist movement went into a coma shortly afterward, making the political aims of his films look dated and risible at once. But even if you go soft on the film’s political aims (and I am!), the rest of it is usually nothing more than a dumb comedy with lengthy laughs-free passages. Too bad; I do think that Falardeau had what it took to make a truly incendiary satire. In this case, he chose not to…. Maybe he had his reasons.

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