Hot Take: Elvis & Nixon are bigger than life characters and Shannon & Spacey do them up in an over-the-top style that’s very entertaining. Too bad the movie becomes nearly pointless.
I don’t know if Michael Shannon’s take on Elvis Presley is good or bad but it’s damn sure entertaining. To a lesser extent, so is Kevin Spacey as President Richard Nixon. The “untold” story behind the picture of Elvis & Nixon meeting at the White House isn’t nearly as entertaining as their performances but it’s mostly harmless and goofy fun… albeit a little pointless and the tread on the tires shows some serious wear at the end of this wild ride.
If anything, Elvis & Nixon feels like a TV pilot. Maybe for a series called Undercover Elvis that was passed on. Instead, they found a way to add an extra 30 minutes or so to the episode and make a feature-length film. Personally, if Shannon is down, I’m green lighting that series (with or without Spacey as a reoccurring character) if it’s my network.
Outside of Shannon and Spacey, the supporting cast is solid but uninspired. No one really stands out except maybe Alex Pettyfer as Elvis’ friend and confidant Jerry Schilling. Colin Hanks is adequate as one of Nixon’s two advisors (the other played by Evan Peters). Finally, there’s Johnny Knoxville who continues to look out of place in anything with even a little bit of intelligence.
The biggest letdown is that in all it’s zaniness, Elvis & Nixon never reaches any real hilarity or hijinks. The trailer’s revealing nature doesn’t help (a frequent problem) as you can anticipate the next move in the script. If it weren’t the performances of two committed actors with captivating impersonations of the King of Rock & Roll and Tricky Dick, this movie would have been impeached.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- The Mythology of Elvis & Nixon
The movie does a nice job of taking a few factoids and weaving them together with a few threads of Elvis & Nixon mythology. Even though it’s fairly uneventful, it’s a pleasant enough experience to keep you interested even if you’re not totally thrilled when you finally get there.
- Michael Shannon
I’m seriously starting to think he should be in every film in some capacity. He keeps padding the resume with watchable roles no matter the quality of the film.
- Kevin Spacey
Like him or not, Spacey does great impressions and he’s something to watch as Nixon. His role probably suffers the most from trailer fatigue as his best parts are revealed there and it’s more Elvis… & Nixon than Elvis & Nixon but he holds his own next to Elvis… errr… Shannon.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- Where’s It Going?
Even though there’s a definite point A and point B, somewhere between point A and point B, it feels like it might go somewhere else only to sloppily get back on course.
- Why Should I Care?
Sure, both characters are fun to watch but neither have any depth (although there’s an effort made with Elvis) and in the end, you’re ready to move on to the next slide in the National Archives most requested pictures.