Given that Woody Allen pours so much of himself into his films — despite his protests to the contrary — can we really expect to learn more from a documentary? Director Robert B. Weide ("How to Lose Friends & Alienate People") attempts to dig deeper in "Woody Allen: A Documentary," an over-arching portrait of Allen's life and work as a filmmaker, comedian and actor. Originally a three-hour series made for American public television, it hits the cinemas with a more easily digested length.

The doc starts off tracing Allen's childhood in the New York borough of Brooklyn in the 1940s and '50s and relates how Allen landed a job as a comedy writer while still a teen; he'd go in after school and bang out 50 jokes a day.

It's a telling anecdote, because in a sense he's never changed: Allen's 40-plus film career as a director has long been one of throwing it all out there and seeing what sticks, a belief that in quantity lies quality. Great films such as "Manhattan" or "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" are followed by clunkers like "Whatever Works" or "Stardust Memories." Of course, "Manhattan" was adored by the public and "Stardust" reviled, while Allen seems to have the opposite view; indeed, no two viewers seem to have identical lists of their favorite Allen flicks, which may justify his approach after all.