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Elvis (IMAX in some cinemas)


Stars: Austin Butler, Tom Hanks, Olivia DeJonge, Dacre Montgomery, David Wenham, Richard Roxburgh, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Kelvin Harrison Jr, Helen Thomson, Luke Bracey

Director: Baz Luhrmann

Luhrmann's film about the best-selling record artist of all time tries to be a serious look at the man, his love of 'black' music and his espousal of civil rights causes. But it only really comes to life when the little-known Butler struts the stage as Elvis Presley; he truly brings to life here what made Presley a worldwide teen sensation (even though the soundtrack mixes his vocals with Elvis's own), much the same as Frank Sinatra had done 15 years earlier.

Offstage, Butler is more conventionally good-looking than the original (a shade closer to John Travolta) and lacks some of Presley's beguiling arrogance, while Hanks's 'Colonel' Tom Parker, almost disappearing beneath a mass of prosthetics, is more caricature than character as the Svengali-like figure who moulded Elvis's career, later sadly conventionalising the original hip-gyrating image that created mayhem in America's teenage female population.

The film glosses over Presley's latterly bland movie career, especially the earlier stuff, as we're taken from threats of jailing the star on charges of corrupting teenage morals, to his time in the US Army, when in fact there were several decent films and much else in between.

Still, in a film already yawningly overlong, we perhaps shouldn't carp, particularly since the story at its worst can be a dreary ramble through the less successful aspects of 'The King's' life.

The dialogue is at best conventional, but occasionally flaccid, as when Presley's doomed Mom (Thomson) tells him that 'the world needs to hear you sing, Elvis'. And newcomer DeJonge is just barely adequate as Presley's long-suffering wife Priscilla, giving a performance that looks as if it has wandered in from a daytime TV movie. Other characters just fade into the background.

For all its flaws, the film remains worth seeing for the galvanic performances of the star on stage, and for a truly touching finale, as an overweight and ailing Elvis gives his last performance at 42.

David Quinlan

USA/Australia 2022. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers. Colour (unspecified).
158 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 1, Swearing 0.

Review date: 19 Jun 2022