I honestly don’t see how this is any more funny or absorbing than it‘d be without the mockumentary framing. ZELIG’s presentation deliberately distances itself so far from genre expectations that it tarnishes any humorous reading this concept would beckon, as it seems to me that had Allen let these scenes play out in same manner they do here minus the frequently overbearing, obnoxious narration and talking heads scenes (which bear so much resemblance to the type of documentary filmmaking they’re satirizing that they end up becoming just as dull), this would fare so much better at achieving comic success. Now, this is not to say that playing this in the way described would make for a great film either—a lot of the comedy here just comes off as a sort of FORREST GUMP-esque attempt to insert the protagonist into wacky and ridiculous historical scenarios, which still wouldn’t make for a compelling gag to base a film around were it presented regularly—but it would at the very least end up a less frustrating viewing experience. While I do understand partisans’ viewpoint that it’s the very playing straight of this obviously farcical story that makes it so funny to them in the first place, I just don’t know that I will ever be on board with a spoof so indistinguishable from its source material (once again, so much of the humor here boils down to the presentation not being in line with the concept: a bit that can only remain witty and intriguing for so long). All of the interesting things this has to say about identity and conformity are so deeply muddled by the dry and straight-faced conceit I’m describing that it’s a wonder I was able to draw anything from this at all. And to those partisans that continue to insist that this film was as innovative and well-realized as this type of movie got for the time: please check out F FOR FAKE. Or, at the very least, don’t try to pretend that Allen was exploring deeply uncharted waters here. It’s really all I ask.

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