Nearly 25 years after his death, Orson Welles is still a force bigger than life, a fascinating figure in 20th-century theater, radio and film.

Nearly 25 years after his death, Orson Welles is still a force bigger than life, a fascinating figure in 20th-century theater, radio and film.

He's made appearances as a character in several truth-inspired films, including Ed Wood and Cradle Will Rock, and as the title Me and Orson Welles indicates, the latest from Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused) casts him in a central role. On this occasion, however, the film around Welles has a hard time keeping up to his level.

A dramatization of Welles' controversial 1937 staging of Julius Caesar as a fascist allegory with his Mercury Theatre troupe, the film inserts Zac Efron's 16-year-old Richard as the wide-eyed innocent through which the audience can marvel at the heightened drama on stage and off - and at Welles' (Christian McKay) raging ego.

After flattering his way into a part in Welles' play, Richard turns his charm on ambitious backstage assistant Sonja (Claire Danes). Despite her singular focus on career success, she takes notice.

McKay's terrific as the latter part of the titular bill, effectively combining intelligence, charisma and much less attractive qualities while taking on some of the screenplay's most profound and funny passages.

But Efron's clearly out of his league, a stiff with his Shakespearean readings and in his heat-free scenes with Danes. In the background, much of the supporting cast embodies the film's systemic conflict between high theatricality and plain old hamminess.