THE JAZZ SINGER - AMC Carrollton, AMC Skyline, Showcase Pike, Showcase Vienna, Springfield Mall and Uptown (in 70mm and Dolby Stereo). s
The Hollywood holiday blitz is one of the more recent Christmas traditions. This year the celluloid studios sent us an even dozen -- the Twelve Flicks of Christmas, you might say -- but two of them arrived (as some Christmas cards do) just too late to respond to. the biggest Jewish guilt double whammy in all of fiction, not just film, is delivered by Laurence Olivier in the newest version of "The Jazz Singer."
As a Lower East Side cantor, he goes into such an ectasy of agony over the announcement that his son wants to go to Los Angeles on business for two weeks that you realize it won't really matter whether the son eventually becomes a pop star or comes home to be assistant cantor at the synagogue. His real career is going to be on the psychiatrist's couch.
The Olivier performance, shameless as it is, is a bonus in what is otherwise a film for Neil Diamond fans and a sound track for record sales. As these packages go, it delivers what it's supposed to. But "The Jazz Singer" is a venerable vehicle, and could have been used for more than mere transportation to get a rock star to the screen.
The story, you will recall from 1927, when it served for the first talkie, starring Al Jolson, is about a young man breaking out of his old-world tradition to share in the American dream. Only one scene has been modernized for this version -- Jolson's famous blackface routine has been de-offensivized by having Diamond disguise himself to help out a black singing group.
The rest is just a remake of the route from ethnicity to stardom, the one difference being that rock, rather than jazz, has become America's theme. It's ludicrous to find the singer's wife, not just his father, terrified of moving up in the world.
How much more plausible it would have been -- and what a genuine updating of the material -- to have them on the route back from disillusionment with commercial success to a re-identification with their historic tradition.