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‘Elvis’: Robin’s movie review

A movie poster for “Elvis” shows a belt buckle-like accessory against a solid black background. On the surface of the belt buckle is the singer’s first name written in large red and gold letters with red and gold embellishment surrounding it.
Courtesy of Warner Brothers Entertainment

For Movie Minutes, Robin Holabird takes a look at the new film Elvis and the singer’s history here in Nevada.

Jet pilots, dinosaurs and the king of rock ’n’ roll share more than giant box office revenues this summer — they all boast Nevada ties. Top Gun: Maverick, Jurassic World: Dominion and Elvis either mention the state or were filmed here. Maverick hides the link and only cites Nevada in end credits with thanks to the Naval Air Station in Fallon, where the real TOPGUN school operates. Subtitles in Jurassic World specifically say Nevada when showing an illegal dinosaur farm. Not great for Nevada’s image perhaps, but at least we can rest assured it’s fake since all the trees look like the kind you find in British Columbia. Oh yeah, and because dinosaur farms remain fantasy and movie magic.

Movie magic turns Australian sound stages into Nevada for Elvis, as in Presley — the famed singer who really existed and worked in the state. The sets and effects look great. Less of a biopic than a glittery Gatsby-style party, the movie explodes with energy and excitement. Director Baz Luhrmann already showcased his musical and cinematic wizardry in projects like Moulin Rouge, where he never let precise timelines or facts get in the way of grabbing attention.

Luhrmann keeps some basics from data surrounding Elvis Presley, including his long stint at the International Hotel in Las Vegas. But Luhrman leaves out more intricate details, intentionally catapulting over the top for a fun adventure that captures the excitement and energy of a performer whose iconic influence continues decades after his death. The life of Elvis already inspired various screen versions, so rather than repeat previous structures, Luhrmann emphasizes the relationship between Elvis and his manager Col. Tom Parker. This puts Tom Hanks in the picture, adding acting gravitas, but of course, focus remains on the title character.

The screenplay points out that Elvis seemed happiest and most alive when singing, and the movie reflects that quality most intense during its musical interludes and slowing down offstage. This means less dramatic range for actor Austin Butler, who nonetheless shines in a role that generated awards attention in various other versions. Butler glides into vocal mannerisms without the self-awareness of an impersonator, and the actor slips into gyrations as if he can’t help it. The real Elvis always wanted to make it big in movies like Viva Las Vegas, but it took this film about him to achieve that goal.

This review aired on KUNR FM on July 8.

Robin Holabird is KUNR’s entertainment reviewer, author, and former film commissioner for the Nevada Film Office. You can browse a full archive of her reviews here.

Robin Holabird reviews movies for KUNR, and her reviews have aired for more than 30 years. During that time, she has had a high profile in the Nevada film community.
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