American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
Elvis and JFK did not die, and today they're roommates in an East Texas nursing home whose residents are being killed by an ancient Egyptian Soul Sucker named Bubba Ho-Tep. I want to get that on the table right at the get-go, so I can deal with the delightful wackiness of this movie, which is endearing and vulgar in about the right proportion. The movie doesn't exactly work, but sometimes when a car won't start, it's still fun to look at the little honey gleaming in the driveway.
The movie's back story: Elvis (Bruce Campbell) became sick of his lifestyle, his buddies, his groupies, his pills, his songs, his movies and his Colonel Parker. He struck a deal with an Elvis impersonator to trade places. There's even a contract guaranteeing that Elvis can switch back if he changes his mind -- but the contract is burned up in a barbecuing accident, and by then Elvis doesn't mind anyway, because he enjoys the freedom of performing just for the sheer joy, without the sideshow of fame.
The King explains all of this in a thoughtful, introspective voice-over narration that also deals with other matters on his mind, such as the alarming pustule on that part of his anatomy where it is least welcome. He talks about Priscilla and Lisa Marie, about his movies (not a single good one), about his decision to disappear, and about how he broke his hip falling off a stage. This narration is not broad comedy, but wicked, observant and truthful. "Bubba Ho-Tep" has a lot of affection for Elvis, takes him seriously, and -- this is crucial -- isn't a camp horror movie, but treats this loony situation as if it's really happening.
The man in the room down the hall is John F. Kennedy, played by Ossie Davis. "But, Jack..." Elvis says hesitantly, "you're black." JFK nods in confirmation. When his assassination was faked by Lyndon B. Johnson, "they dyed me." Now the two old men wait for death in their hospital beds, Elvis on a stroller, JFK using a motorized wheelchair for longer trips, talking about what was and wasn't.