*½/**** Image B Sound A- (DD)/B+ (DTS) Extras D
starring Neil Diamond, Laurence Olivier, Lucie Arnaz, Catlin Adams
screenplay by Herbert Baker, adaptation by Stephen H. Foreman, based on the play by Samson Raphaelson
directed by Richard Fleischer
by Travis Mackenzie Hoover Having always had a knack for turning schlock into symptomatic gold, J. Hoberman once worked his magic on the remake of The Jazz Singer by comparing the original's vision of Jewish cultural schizophrenia against the 1980 version's post-Israel reversal. I recommend the essay (from his collection Vulgar Modernism) not merely for its brilliance, but also to discharge you from seeing the movie--because the only thing Hoberman gets wrong is that it's "a mediocre film but a resonant one." Mediocre it may be, but resonant it ain't, entirely too careful as it is to soft-pedal some traumatic material so as not to upset star Neil Diamond's MOR constituency. The Jazz Singer has all of the singer's sentimental weaknesses without the attendant cheesy bombast that makes him entertaining. It's a singularly bland film that doesn't quite hurt but that feels like a chore as it trickles towards the end.