Change of Habit Blu-ray Review: Easy Habit to Break

This offbeat film bears the distinction of being Elvis Presley’s final acting role, which is about the only remarkable thing about it. Although it has been praised as a rare chance for Elvis to stretch his skills with a dramatic role, his performance as a doctor running an inner-city clinic is about as lackluster as that nutty premise. This doctor also happens to sing and play guitar, so we still get a few lighthearted musical performances by the King in the otherwise serious film.

On the upside, his love interest is Mary Tyler Moore, still plying her trade in films in between her long TV stints on The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Interestingly, her TV co-star Ed Asner also appears in the film in a small role. Moore plays a nun who is also a nurse, who along with two of her fellow nun nurses is called to work at the clinic without revealing that they are nuns. This sets up some serious The Sound of Music vibes as the nun grapples with her growing affection for her boss, questioning whether to stay devoted to her faith or follow her heart.

As if the plot wasn’t already ridiculous enough, it soon veers into social justice as the inner city clinic workers are faced with the poverty and plight of their minority patients, as well as the militant gang members fighting for their rights in the surrounding neighborhood. Blue Hawaii this isn’t. One of the nuns is black but experiences colorism from the gang members, with one remarking that she isn’t really black, just “dipped in maple syrup”. And yet it still gets worse.

The low point comes when Dr. Elvis consults an autistic little girl and attempts to cure her by hugging her closely for an uncomfortably long time, with the child shrieking and crying throughout the unbearable scene. It’s hard to imagine Elvis reading the script and thinking it would be a great vehicle for him, but one gets the impression that he was about as checked out of the decision-making process then as Bruce Willis and Nicolas Cage are today.

The Blu-ray picture quality is uniformly solid with no noticeable defects. The soundtrack is upgraded to DTS and also seems completely clean. There are no production bonus features, just a handful of trailers for other recent Blu-ray releases along with this film’s original theatrical trailer.

While it’s somewhat of a treat to see Elvis acting opposite Mary Tyler Moore, the film’s weak attempts to be gritty and socially relevant just look laughable by current standards. This one is strictly for the Elvis completionists or viewers looking for something completely off the wall.

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Steve Geise

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