"Elvis Presley is the greatest cultural force in the 20th century."

(Leonard Bernstein)


"If you're an Elvis fan, no explanation is necessary; If you're not an Elvis fan, no explanation is possible."

(George Klein)


"For a dead man, Elvis Presley is awfully noisy."

(Professor Gilbert B. Rodman)


"History has him as this good old country boy, Elvis is about as country as Bono!"

(Jerry Schilling)






CBS' 'Elvis' honest, enjoyable

By Rick Bird

There's a tendency to dismiss a network miniseries called "Elvis." Do we really need another four hours retelling that story? Why are we doing this?

For this biopic, however, the advice is to drop the cynicism. Viewers should have a good time watching CBS' "Elvis" (9 p.m. Sunday and Wednesday, Channel 12).

The movie stays true to the facts, is well acted and features exquisitely recreated concert footage that will actually make you feel the primal vibes of rock 'n' roll. It also helps that Elvis Presley is played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers, 27, who is no mere Elvis imitator. He is instantly believable from the opening scene as a teenager slicking his hair back complete with the famous sneer to his inspired concert performances.

Rhys Meyers somehow accomplishes the impossible in this film, playing Elvis without becoming a caricature. The four-hour miniseries follows the familiar Elvis story, ending in 1968 with Presley's celebrated TV special comeback. It spares us the bloated drug-addled '70s. That may be because Presley's family fully cooperated with the production and that's how they want us to remember "The King." But the production still remains honest.

It alludes to the start of his drug addiction while he was in the Army (troops were routinely given amphetamines to keep them going for all-night maneuvers) and it doesn't dodge Elvis' promiscuity. It shows how he found the love of his life, Priscilla, while still fooling around with plenty of women, including Ann-Margret.

Most important, the docudrama stays true to its music roots. There's a wonderful scene in which Elvis crashes a Southern juke joint to see Wynonie Harris (who became famous recording at Cincinnati's King Records), suggesting that Presley learned his hip shaking from the original soul shaker.

The miniseries successfully captures Presley's raw sexuality and establishment backlash to rock. For example, one scene depicts how officials in a Florida town warned him not to swivel his hips at a concert or he would be arrested.

All Elvis had to do was stand still, sing and wiggle his index finger at the girls. They still went crazy. Rock was not to be denied. Randy Quaid is great as Col. Tom Parker, the snake oil salesman who steered Elvis from music to a career in badly made, but profitable, movies.

But it is a complicated story that the film doesn't dodge. Indeed, Elvis never wanted to "invent rock."

His true love was to be a movie star. His hero was Marlon Brando, which explains a lot. There are some problems with the miniseries, like the overly long scenes with Elvis and his "mama'" Gladys (Camryn Manheim) as she worries about where he's headed, and Elvis endlessly pines, "It's all right, mama."

It doesn't add much to the portrait. The lip-synching also is bad. Still, this is a well-made movie about the music and appreciating how, for better and worse, Elvis became the personification of rock's birth.


(Review, Cincinnati.com)

FTD: Big Boss Man
VCD: Joe Esposito's Home Videos of Elvis
Book: Complete Guide to Elvis Presley
CD: Now What (Lisa Presley)
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Show: All Shook Up
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