Pizza Poppa Is the MCU's Best New Character
'Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness' introduces a new hero and his name is Pizza Poppa.
There are plenty of cameos in Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, including some that will elicit copious feelings from people who have spent years obsessively thinking about the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But there is only one new character introduced that actually matters. His name is Pizza Poppa. And Pizza Poppa always gets paid.
Who is Pizza Poppa? Pizza Poppa is a purveyor of pizza balls on Earth-838, one of the parallel universes Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his new acolyte America Chavez (Xochtil Gomez) visit. Most importantly, Pizza Poppa is portrayed by Bruce Campbell.
The first 40 minutes of this latest Doctor Strange outing are oddly lackluster, but the action clicks into gear when Pizza Poppa shows up, because Pizza Poppa lets you know that you are actually in a Sam Raimi movie. As my colleague Emma Stefansky wrote in her review, the going gets good when Raimi starts to pull out the old tricks from his toolbox—the askew angles and jump scares that made his Evil Dead trilogy a classic. And who is the star of those Evil Dead movies? Why none other than Bruce Campbell.
Campbell was Raimi's childhood friend who became his horror protagonist avatar when he played Ash Williams in The Evil Dead, Evil Dead II, and Army of Darkness. Over the course of the three movies, pursued by countless Deadites, Campbell perfected his persona: A human cartoon with bravado to spare who can take hits like Wile E. Coyote. Pizza Poppa capitalizes on this trait.
When Strange and America land in this universe, America quickily seeks out some food, in the form of a concoction known as "pizza balls." (Think: Garlic knots covered with cheese and pepperoni. They look pretty tasty.) America wrongly assumes that these goodies are free, since food in most worlds are, apparently. Not so. Pizza Poppa always gets paid. Except here he doesn't.
Strange, using his magic, turns Pizza Poppa on himself, making him squirt mustard on his face, and punch himself silly. And while we don't condone this—Pizza Poppa deserves his money!—it's exactly the kind of Three Stooges-inspired material that we want when Raimi and Campbell get together. Give me a half an hour of it. Make it like the sequence in Army of Darkness where Campbell has to fight a bunch of mini-mes.
Raimi has a tradition of sticking his muse in his superhero outings. Campbell appeared in all three of Raimi's Spider-Man in various roles as thorns in Peter Parker's side. In the first movie, he's the wrestling announcer who thinks "the Human Spider" is a stupid name. In the second, he's the usher who won't let Peter into Mary Jane's play. Finally, in the third, he's a snooty French maitre d. All these men, as well as Pizza Poppa, exist to be pain in the asses for our heroes. While these superheroes may face world ending threats, Campbell is there to serve as the more mundane kind of obstacle.
Now that Tobey Maguire's Spidey sort of exists in the MCU, could you make the case that all these Bruce Campbell characters do in addition to Pizza Poppa. Sure! But that's not really the point here. The point is that Pizza Poppa ALWAYS GETS PAID. Thank goodness for Pizza Poppa.