Me and Orson Welles

Rated 4.0

Me and Orson Welles is a nice change-of-pace movie for director Richard Linklater, in many ways the sort of smart, mainstream comedy we always imagined he’d make, instead of pointless dreck like Bad News Bears (naturally, it was also a box-office dud). The film is a fictionalized take on the Mercury Theatre’s watershed 1937 production of Julius Caesar, told from the point of view of a wiseacre but wide-eyed teenager impetuously drafted by Mercury impresario Welles to play Lucius. As the lead, the adequate Zac Efron is undeniably a compromise, but he’s the compromise that got this spry movie made and (barely) released in the first place. Christian McKay steals the show as the preening, spotlight-stealing Welles, who gives the kid a master class in theater traditions and emotional manipulation, and there is good supporting work from Claire Danes and Ben Chaplin.