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GRACELAND OR BUST

Are you lonesome tonight?

Don't be so lonesome - or bored - that you settle for "3,000 Miles To Graceland."

Sure, the movie sounds at first like a good time. It features affable actors like Kevin Costner and Kurt Russell. It's being hyped on TV as if it's a comedy.

And it's about Elvis impersonators! Before the sneak preview, radio station reps invited audience members to get up and sing bits of Elvis songs in exchange for CDs and posters. Ha, ha! How bad could this movie be?

Good feelings, to be honest, lasted through the first few scenes. We saw five guys trundling through the desert in a vintage Cadillac convertible, all with Elvis sideburns, bound for an International Elvis Week in Las Vegas. Whee! Soon afterward, we watched Russell, as one of the would-be Elvises, beginning a crude romance with Courteney Cox, who plays a very loose single mom.

By this time, the hopeful moviegoer has found a few things to amuse him. Cox tells the emotionally backward Russell that women like candy from men, and awakens to find a Snickers bar on her pillow. And it's cool to see an Elvis impersonator, decked out in shining rhinestones, striding through a Las Vegas casino with purpose and dignity.

Soon, though, ugly signs emerge that we're not in Biloxi anymore.

It's gross how the moviemakers thought it was funny to have Cox's son, who is about 11, sneak into her room while she and Russell are rocking the bed in order to grab the visitor's wallet.

And it's ominous to see the movie occasionally lapse into a format resembling a video game. For a few moments, the view from the car's front seat changes, and the road zips past in an artificial montage of static and flashing lights.

Then we get the first few deaths. And gruesome and bloody they are, as our quintet of Elvis impersonators drown the big screen in that boring machine gun fire that action movies are so fond of these days.

In other words, the title rings true: We are, it becomes clear, 3,000 miles away from Graceland. Not only do references to Elvis and Elvis impersonators gradually vanish as the movie goes on, but the drama dissolves into a mindless hailstorm of clumsy violence. Close-up violence, too. One guy gets shot in the back. A security guard collapses in agony after taking it in the stomach. At moments like this, the audience gasped in horror at first. Then, of course, they laughed, sheep-like. After all, hadn't TV ads implied this thing would be funny?

The worst death, for my money, was a guy who got shot with arrows. At least I think those were arrows. I couldn't bear to examine the close-up of his corpse. I had to sneak away and watch 20 corny minutes of "The Wedding Planner" just to recover myself.

Even the movie's dumb jokes were bothersome. Many of them came from the 11-year-old kid, who is mixed up in the adult drama in all kinds of unhealthy ways. Not only does he coolly witness his mother in the sack, but he observes the violence with aplomb and - even more offensively - never shuts up.

Russell, in diner: "Eat your fries. Don't you know there are kids in India starving?"

Kid: "What are you going to do, send them my fries?"

(The audience rolled in the aisles at this. I couldn't believe it. Doesn't this joke go back to the ancient Peloponnesians? I'm going to Hollywood to become a filmmaker.)

More than two hours long, "3000 Miles To Graceland" made me more and more uncomfortable.

When will this gore stop? Haven't we seen it all? If I have to see another movie with the heroes doing nothing but yelling the F-word and blasting away indiscriminately with semi-automatic weapons, I'll have to take a few desperate measures of my own.

And speaking of heroes, were these guys supposed to be heroes? One minute, they mow down dozens of innocent people. The next, what passes these days for sentimental music is playing as one of the criminals lies dying. Was I supposed to feel bad here? Was I supposed to mourn this creep's death?

I didn't. Here's what I mourn.

I mourn Kevin Costner. What is he doing in this film? Weren't "Waterworld" and "The Postman" big enough duds for him? I remember back when he was adorable, with that drawling voice and the sun in his hair. Aw, Kevin. Aw, gee.

And that cute Kurt Russell. Why have his last few movies been so sinister? Christian Slater, such a nice leading man five years ago in "Bed Of Roses." And David Arquette, so lovable as Drew Barrymore's brother in "Never Been Kissed."

Sigh, for wasted sweetness, not to mention good looks.

In the end, that's the movie's biggest crime.

MOVIE Review

"3000 Miles To Graceland"

* (out of four)

Rated:R

Starring Kevin Costner, Kurt Russell and Courteney Cox

Opens Friday in area theaters.

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