Schmelvis Max Wallace

Schmelvis Max Wallace

A marginally unique discovery about Elvis Presley’s Jewish heritage isn’t enough to sustain interest in this film about how uninteresting Elvis Presley’s apparent Jewish heritage is. Montreal’s Evan Beloff stumbles upon a news item suggesting that Presley possessed Jewish heritage on the maternal side of his family. Intrigued, he enlists director Max Wallace, CBC personality/friend Jonathan Goldstein, Rabbi Reuben Poupko and born-again Hasid/Elvis impersonator Dan Hartal for a fact-finding road film resolving whether Elvis was in fact, a Jew. At stops in Tupelo, Mississippi, Memphis, Tennessee and even a needless trip to Israel, the convincing theory is presented with gleeful defiance rather than joy, and the documentary cast is baffled when Elvis fans of every stripe express indifference about their findings. No one cares whether Presley was a Jew and this unexpected result casts a shadow over the rest of the production. Schmelvis goes from a documentary about Elvis’s faith to one about why such a film might be an unsuccessful waste of money. The bubbling philosophical neurosis isn’t endearing; on the contrary, it’s useless and contemptible. In attempting some kind of Meta, Seinfeld-ian story-within-a-story arc, Schmelvis is simply not compelling in any regard. Plus: commentary, book excerpt. (MVD)