There is an sad irony to Richard Linklater's film Me and Orson Welles. It's a film set in 1937 when Welles' newly-minted Mercury Theatre mounted their first production, a modern adaptation of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. Welles is played with uncanny realism by Christian McKay, who roars around the theatre oscillating equal parts berating bully and charming genius. McKay is a joy to watch. He captures so much of Welles – his mannerisms, voice and gestures, that it often felt as though I was watching the great man himself. It doesn't hurt that he's the spitting image of him either. Me and Orson Welles simply soars when Linklater concentrates his considerable directing talent on the man at the centre of the stage.
But unfortunately, the first word in the film's title also happens to be the focus of picture. “Me” is played the super-bland, dull-as-dishwater-pretty-boy and High School Musical star Zac Efron. Efron is a dead weight around the neck of what is otherwise a brilliant little picture. He has about as much depth as a puddle of piss, although it's not entirely his fault because the role is both badly conceived and woefully underwritten. The problem is, without Efron's star power, this picture likely wouldn't have got made, a testament to how utterly fucked Hollywood is these days.
Still, if you pick your smoke, pee and snack breaks carefully, this is a terrific film. My advice is every time Efron looks like he's about to say something.... leave the room. Most of his scenes, while plentiful, are mercifully short so you've got about 5 minutes to wander the house looking for something to do until McKay/Welles grace the screen again. If every the DVD chapter points needed to be synchronized on a performance, it's for Me and Orson Welles. I would have preferred a Zac-less 19 minute cut of the film as a menu choice, but they didn't offer one. It would have been called “...and Orson Welles” in my fantasy De-Me'd DVD version.
Given the choice between living at a time when Orson was celebrated as a hugely-talented star, but 5 years of hellish World War 2 lay just off the horizon -versus- living at a time when Zac Efron is considered to be his modern day equivalent.... sign me up to fight the godless Hun.