Neil Diamond's remake of the 1927 Jolson vehicle isn't very good, but neither is it the vacuous, sentimental ego trip it's been painted as. The Jolson version was centered on the myth of the melting pot—the hero escaped his ethnicity and became something new, an “American.” Here, the theme is more personal and psychological: Diamond must find a way to escape his father without renouncing his Jewishness. Nothing is followed through with much rigor, and the resolution is artificial, but the film at least has its teeth into something real. Richard Fleischer's direction is appropriately close-in and small, and Diamond himself, while no actor, proves to be a commandingly intense, brooding presence. Debits: cutesy-poo Lucie Arnaz, scenery-chomping Laurence Olivier (1980).
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