The Jazz Singer

“The Jazz Singer”- Hmmm, buy it for the music but don’t stay for the plot– you and the fast-forward button will become good friends. Neil does it again– all of the music in the movie consists of alternative performances not found on the LP/CD. Apparently, Neil insisted on singing live to lend the live segments an air of authenticity. The best parts are the ones that can be separated from the context of the movie- “Hava Nagilah”, an exhilarating version of “On the Robert E. Lee”- before all of the lyrics were completed, “America”- which amply demonstrates Neil’s showmanship skills, the unavailable-anywhere-else “You are My Sunshine” and a montage-version of “Songs of Life.” But, for every good moment, there’s at least one bad one- what’s really annoying is when the dialogue cuts INTO some of the songs like “Hey Louise” and “Summerlove”. I can do without the Molly and Rivka interruptions– I prefer to hear Neil sing! Particularly awful is the “blackface” scene early in the film– steer clear of this at all costs! The remainder of the movie is a little drab and depressing and somewhat of a snoozer. Compared to the classic 1927 Al Jolson film, the timing and the sequencing of several key scenes is way off. That leaves characters behaving in implausible and mind-numbingly illogical ways. For example, “Songs of Life” works well as a standalone “music video” but the scene, and the reasoning behind it were never made very clear. In order to update the movie for the 80’s, some major revisions needed to be done, and the script needed a drastic rewrite, but those clearly were not a high priority, so we ended up with a rather disjointed and unconvincing movie. What we really need is “The Jazz Singer Video Album”– something that would restore some of the cuts (“Hey Louise” et. al.) and get rid of the acting, plot and dialogue, and tighten this all up into a tidy 40 minute package.

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