In his effort to prove or disprove the rumor that the outré comedian faked his own death in 1984, director Christopher Maloneys aim is true, but hampered by budgetary restraints.
A great deal of Kaufmans act hinged on pulling the wool over his audiences eyes, so its no unreasonable for people to assume as many did, and continue to do (ergo, this documentary) that reports of his death by kidney failure were just another one of the comic genius hoaxes. Maloney wants to believe that is the case, and lays out a point-by-point theory that includes Kaufman having found a look-alike nearing the end of his life and switching identities with that person at the hospital.
If youre an easy believer in conspiracy theories, you might buy that one, too. Much emphasis is placed on Andy having talked about wanting to fake his death as near proof of having done so. Yet Andys own brother tells Maloney straight out that as much as hed like that to be true and was present where Andy died, Nothings impossible ... (but) hes gone.
Best about this do-it-yourself doc is the glimpse you get of some of Andys legendary routines, like the group lip-synch to Old MacDonald Had a Farm. Worst about this do-it-yourself doc is how narrow that glimpse may be, because Maloney simply cannot afford to license clips from his star-making appearances on Saturday Night Live, his work as Latka on the long-running Taxi, or the infamous disruptions on ABCs sketch series Friday. Seeing Kaufman do the Mighty Mouse theme on SNL is hilarious; because Maloney cant use it, he has to describe it, which is like leaving a portrait half-painted.
Those are the limitations, which also include iMovie-esque titles and an all-too-languid narration by the filmmaker. While Kaufmans demise remains a blow, a manic energy would be the best way to tell Kaufmans story in his spirit. Rod Lott