Almost Elvis is almost a documentary. An account of participants in the "Images of Elvis" contest in Memphis, an annual competition to choose the world’s best Elvis imitator, it wisely avoids taking a supercilious, Michael Moore–like point of view to its much-ridiculed subject. The problem is, it doesn’t really take any point of view. Director John Paget presents sympathetic portraits of the Elvises, from 15-year-old Quentin Flagg, who wears his duckbill and sideburns proudly on his paper route and is going to the big show for the first time, to 41-year-old perennial contender and Sylvester Stallone look-alike Irv Cass, who swears he’ll lose weight and put on the show of his life this time around. At times Paget even lets a little friction into the breezy proceedings, as when the contestants take mild swipes at one another or assess the dubious chances of talented black contender Robert Washington.
But as far as the significance of the phenomenon is concerned, Paget relies on banal truisms from "Elvis Scholar" Vernon Chadwick, and for the most part these imitators conjure not the King of Rock and Roll but the bloated icon of Las Vegas kitsch. When Irv Cass chooses to sing "My Way" because that’s the song everybody identifies Elvis with, it’s clear who’s left the building. (75 minutes)