Baz Luhrmann’s musical drama “Elvis” has all the pomp and pompadour one would expect by putting Elvis Presley’s iconic life on screen.
The relationship between Elvis (Austin Butler) and his notorious manager, Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks), is at the center of an overlong, narrative mess (★★½ out of four; rated PG-13; HBO Max, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Vudu, Google Play and other on-demand platforms), as excessive as one of the King's fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches.
However, with Butler’s stellar portrayal, it’s never dull, and more enjoyable than not. The musical numbers are often dazzling, boosted by Luhrmann’s inimitable style.
America’s Dad plays the literal heavy in “Elvis,” which at first is told from Parker’s perspective (although it doesn’t stay that way). A manipulative carny at his core, the Colonel watches young Elvis perform, and sees potential for the greatest show on Earth.
And he’s not wrong: The Mississippi-born Memphis kid with rockabilly hair and a gawky frame goes on stage, does a “wiggle” with his hips, and female fans go absolutely bonkers.
The film quickly rolls through his early days as a rising star in the 1950s, as Parker convinces Elvis to take him on as manager, and the singer causes enough of a ruckus that getting drafted into the Army is a decent PR move.
After Elvis’ foray into Hollywood, he and Parker land in Las Vegas, where Presley has a musical comeback, but goes down a bad path as the Colonel pulls strings behind the scenes like a devilish puppet master.
Butler makes for a phenomenal King of rock ’n’ roll because, rather than going the impersonator route, he grows into being Elvis just as the real one did, from truck driver to musical deity.
Hanks’ Parker is a harder sell. The makeup and prosthetics work is amazing, but the character never quite lands, as Hanks’ accent bounces from German to Leprechaun to “evil Woody after a hard life in the toy box.”