March 24, 2012 § 2 Comments
When we’re talking about Elvis’s formula movies, fans acknowledge that some of them are so bad they’re good, while others are just so bad they’re awful. The problem is that there’s no real consensus on which is which. Kissin’ Cousins is one of those Elvis movies that straddles the divide–some fans will rank it smack in the middle of their best-to-worst lists (I’ve ever seen a few lists where it falls in the top third!), while plenty of others will put it dead last. I wondered about this until I realized that there are infinite reasons Elvis aficionados are drawn to the King, and subsequently, a million ways to rank his movies. Some people rank based on plot cohesion or plot originality, others on how many good songs it contains. Some are in it for Elvis’s hotness, while others care more about the hotness of his co-stars; some fans care most about his chemistry with his female leads or the effectiveness of the love triangle (because there’s always a love triangle). Some just want to see him act. Someone judging on plot would rank Tickle Me damn near the bottom of their lists, but if you’re more in it for the girls, Elvis’s co-star in that one, Jocelyn Lane, was one of the hottest he was ever paired with. Many of the King’s devotees rank Clambake low solely because Elvis looks like he’d stuffed himself with a few too many peanut butter-and-banana sandwiches prior to filming, but I kind of dug it because of Shelley Fabares and its wacky ’60s bar set. Anybody who cares about the songs would hate Flaming Star and Wild in the Country, where Elvis barely sings, but those are often ranked at the top of lists for fans who care about those trivial things like acting and plot.
Then, of course, there are the viewers like me: the ones who just want 90 minutes of a good time. On that count, Kissin’ Cousins delivers. At least I think it does. Maybe I’m just biased, since I watched it directly on the heels of Double Trouble, which would make anything seem good. The plot summary for Kissin’ Cousins didn’t set the bar much higher: Elvis plays a dual role as two cousins, one a Tennessee hillbilly, the other as a soldier who’s trying to help the government seize Hillbilly Elvis’s land to build a missile site. Throw in some hot cousins, a girl gang of nymphomaniac neighbors called the Kittyhawks, a little bit of moonshine and a hoe-down or two, slap it all together with a three-week filming schedule, and there you go. The difference between the two films, though, is that Kissin’ Cousins wholeheartedly embraces the camp factor right from the start. The camera winks at us every time Hillbilly Elvis (complete with blond wig!) demands to “wrassle,” every time the Kittyhawks go on the prowl for “men critters . . . and that ensures that later on, when Soldier Elvis heroically rescues the family patriarch from falling off a “cliff” that appears to be all of three feet tall, or when Hillbilly Elvis flips his wooing technique from trying to tackle his love interest to singing her a tender ballad, we can laugh it off. The film never asked us to take it seriously in the first place.