Israeli writer-director Joseph Cedar's award-winning comedy — about a petty feud between Talmudic scholars who are father and son — suffers from terminal condescension.
Eliezer (Shlomo Bar-Aba) has been passed over for an Israeli academic prize 16 times; he's like the Randy Newman of this particular honor. Then he gets a call telling him that he's this year's award recipient. Unfortunately, it soon comes to light that the committee has made an embarrassing mistake. The prize is supposed to go to his son, Uriel (Lior Ashkenazi).
This sets the stage for Footnote's or small-minded comedy of academic errors. It's the kind of bratty melodrama whose pretense of maturity is destroyed by its gleefully zany, Looney Tunes-style score and Cedar's serial abuse of close-ups.
Eliezer is the kind of character prone to saying, "That's a good idea ... a very good idea ... but it's wrong." Uriel prefers: "There are a lot of true things in your work and a lot of new things. The problem is that the new things are not true, and the true things are not new." Cedar gives both men human characteristics, but he paints even those in churlishly broad strokes. There's nothing particularly intelligent or funny about watching Cedar first take potshots at his flawed characters, then insist that they're actually sympathetic and go right back to mocking them for being incapable of overcoming their own shortcomings.