Me and Orson Welles is your classic coming-of-age-story/high-school-theater- geek-wet-dream: A precocious teenager is picked out of the crowd by his stage hero, cast in a maverick play, and ushered into manhood by an enchanting older woman. It's the details that make it so much fun: the artist is young Orson Welles (a mesmerizing Christian McKay), the enfant terrible of the New York stage in 1937, and the play is his modern-dress version of Julius Caesar (in Mussolini Blackshirt costumes).

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And the kid is Zac Efron. He's supposed to be Richard Samuels, a precocious (and fictional) Jersey high-school boy with a passion for theater and music, but he's less a hungry '30s teen than a modern star in period dress. And that works just fine for the part. Those sparkling blue eyes suggest a kid dazzled by the lights and the glow of the great Welles, magnificent monster of the stage: genius, tyrant, seductive charmer, overflowing with ideas and ego, and eager for an adoring audience not yet tired of his need for attention.

Cast on the strength of his one-man Orson Welles stage show, McKay doesn't just look like the baby-faced young director. He captures the distinctive timbre that made him the busiest voice on radio, the puckish smile that would melt across his face, the mercurial personality that could flash into a rage then transition effortlessly into a rousing speech to rally the troops. Richard's story is eclipsed whenever scene-stealer Welles is on-screen, due as much to an underwritten role as to Efron's engaging but weightless performance. We never really know who Richard is, just that he's had the ride of his life. recommended