This production has one distinct advantage over most other Elvis biopics. It’s not the extended running time which gives the film ample scope to cover much of the King’s life, unlike the tacky Elvis and the Beauty Queen. Nor is it the quality of acting, though Johnathan Rhys Meyers turn as Elvis far exceeds Dale Midkiff’s in Elvis and Me. It’s not even the respectful amount of time that elapsed since his death, which allowed for a more critical evaluation of the King that was evident in Kurt Russell’s 1979 Elvis. It’s the fact that unlike any of these aforementioned biopics, which all used impersonator Ronnie McDowell to provide the vocals for Elvis’s hits, this biopic actually uses Elvis’ voice on the soundtrack. And the difference is impactful.
Using an all-too familiar framing device, this biopic opens with a reflective Elvis about to take the stage for his 1968 TV comeback special. We then flashback to 1952 where an exceedingly polite, dirt poor, teenage Elvis is about to change the face of popular music. It is in its depiction of these early years that this biopic really soars, with Meyers brilliantly capturing the thrill of Elvis finding his own voice in the recording studio, and his own feet on the stage. Before too long, Colonel Parker arrives on the scene to turn this new sensation into a money-making machine, but in doing so suck’s the fun out of the whole venture.
Not so Randy Quaid, whose portrayal of the Colonel's brazen self-serving nature turns an utterly unlikable character into a source of comic relief. Less successful is Antonia Bernath as Priscilla, who fails to add much shade to an equally unconventional relationship.
as Elvis Presley
as Priscilla Presley
as Hal Wallis
"Blue Moon of Kentucky" was recorded a few days after "That's All Right", not during the same recording session.
The argument that resulted in Elvis threatening to fire the Colonel, only to change his mind after his father discovered they couldn’t afford to buy out the Colonel’s contract, did not occur during the taping of the 1968 TV Special. It took place in 1973 after Elvis insulted the head of Hilton Hotels during one of his stage performances.
The closest this biopic comes to recreating scenes from Elvis’ film career are the “making of” scenes from Viva Las Vegas and Clambake. However, there are impressive recreations from some of his television appearances, particularly the '68 Comeback Special.