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All Critics (25)
| Top Critics (5)
| Fresh (25)
| Rotten (0)
| DVD (4)
Zelig is certain to rank among the most talked-about movies of this or any season. It is the most innovative film yet from the fertile imagination of Woody Allen, who proves that despite a few misses along with hits, he is never dull.
A sublime comic parable about the quest for identity.
Lampooning documentary tradition by structuring the entire film as a meticulously crafted bogus docu, Woody Allen tackles some serious stuff en route
The comedy tends to the smirk-inducing rather than the laugh-out-loud, and the second half wanders somewhat, but Zelig is a strong contender for Allen's most fascinating film.
Zelig is small but it's one of those Allen comedies by which all his other films will be compared.
Gordon Willis' work on this picture is astounding, as he and writer-director-star Woody Allen work in tandem to create a brilliant faux-documentary.
A masterpiece: a brilliant, even passionate historical pastiche, a superbly pregnant meditation on American society and individuality, and an eerie fantasy that will live in your dreams.
Woody Allen's Zelig (1983) perfected the fake documentary a year before This Is Spinal Tap.
Hilarious Woody Allen vehicle, a mockumentary with special effects ahead of its time.
Allen is one of the most recognizable, and least protean, performers.... [P]erhaps ... someone else as Zelig ... could have got the idea across without the blandly explicit dialogue and brought more dimensions to the role, besides.
Woody Allen's comedy about a self-effacing man, who swiftly changes identities is original, clever, droll, and extremely well shot by ace lenser Gordon Willis.
Brilliant early film of the woodman shows his creative genius as a filmmaker.
A delightful, original and funny Woody Allen mockumentary that is most impressive due to Gordon Willis' spectacular cinematography and the technique employed to make it look like old film from the 1920s, with even the actors inserted into real archival footage from back then.
This mockumentary about a human chameleon who is able to change race, appearance, and professional demeanor at will is rather clever with the "archive footage," the smoooth 'n smarmy radio-voiced "narrator," and the "cameo interviews" with actual famous literati, but the movie tips on the tightrope of Woody Allen's slapstick inanity and Woody Allen's in-depth human analysis without ever transcending to the latter.
I'm not one for blanket political correctness, but if you're gonna use blackface and slant-eyed make-up, you've gotta say something narratively relevant and not just treat it as a gag. There's so much social and cultural critique to be mined for both smart comedy and introspective pathos: people's prejudices toward different races, the knowledge of one's own race as the Other, the oftentimes unquestioned authority of those in respected professions, et cetera.
The fictional Dr. Eudora Fletcher states that to the untrained observer, Zelig's faux-psychiatrist sounds realistic, but he's really just deploying cliched lingo. It would follow that Zelig adopts different stereotypical speech patterns for different races or classes, but all of this "research" is presented in silent "archive footage," not some tour de force bit of spoof acting like Robert Downey Jr.'s in "Tropic Thunder." Nothing changes within Woody or Zelig to actually BECOME or even inhabit another personality, which is sadly unsurprising since Woody Allen seems incapable of playing anyone other than Woody Allen. (And anyway, mimicking Dr. Fletcher is technically a plothole because Zelig's chameleonic power doesn't work with or on women.)
Without grounding in what it actually means to "pass" as a different race, class, or other distinction, this lightweight premise and execution is almost as insulting as Woody's blind man bit in "Hollywood Ending."
This is Woody Allen's funny, offbeat, and really cleverly hilarious mockumentary about Leonard Zelig, the "human chameleon"- a man with a multiple personality disorder so bad, he compulsively transforms into anyone that he is near.
The bulk of the film is shot in the style of 1920s/30s newsreels, and follows Leonard through history as he does everything from show up to batting practive with Babe Ruth, appear at the Vatican with Pope Pius and stand behind Hitler at the Nuremberg Rally. Basically, this film pioneered the same concept and special effects later used to great effect and acclaim by Robert Zemeckis with Forrest Gump.
This film is a lot funnier, more clever, and more zany, though. Besides his antics with mimicking people and showing up at various historical events, Zelig becomes a celebrity in his own right, and, while being treated and cured by Dr. Eudora Fletcher, he falls in love.
This is a brisk, funny, very sweet, and terrific film. I loved the ideas and the execution. At a running time of 80 somehting minutes though, this feels really slight and the style seems to overrun the substance. The film does get slightly beneath the surface though, so it's not all fluff. It's not one of Woody's best, but I'd put it near the top of his B-Sides.
My mind has now been blown by Woody Allen. I mean, I have always liked him. Yet, this film makes me feel as though I am only beginning to scratch the surface of Allen's creativity. The fact that this was made in the 80's only serves to impressive me even more. The special effects are incredibly well done and this film succeeded in looking like a collage of film stock from the 20's. The film may lose steam in the middle, but the impression is likely to stay with you forever. A wholly unique and mesmerizing experience.
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