Bad songs plus a silly plot plus Elvis equals . . . movie magic.
Before his management got utterly cynical about the quality of his films, before he himself gave up on Hollywood as a creative challenge, Elvis made some enchanting movies just on the strength of his persona and charisma. He commands the screen the way a star can, without having to work very hard at it, and the very ease of his performances makes them fascinating. His dancing is toned down from his work on stage but it’s still unique and riveting and the commitment of his vocal performances, even on substandard material, is touching.
In G. I. Blues, the surrealism of the overblown sets, the travelogue nature of the location shots (none of which feature Elvis) and the frank artificiality of the production has a delirious effect at times — like Jerry Lewis and James Bond movies.
There was more wit than incompetence or naivete to this style of filmmaking in the Sixties and it seems oddly less dated than the hipper avant-garde approach that eventually overtook the Hollywood mainstream. Elvis’ serenade to the hand-puppet here is sublime cinema — inspired silliness that still manages to be charming and emotionally involving.
Just go along with it and marvel at the mysterious, ever-elusive phenomenon of Elvis Presley.