Traces of Bogdanovich's earlier failures unfairly sank this uneven but joyful ensemble of semi-successful gags with them. "Nickelodeon", in its released form, is indeed a rushed mess. But for a movie that proposes and depicts a world of cinema where Buster Keaton actually shot gonzo documentaries, why would that be a problem?
The long sequence on the plain with the fist fight, hot air balloon, etc. is wonderfully executed slapstick. Great cast as well. I haven't seen the "director's cut" in B&W, but the sepia tones of the theatrical version capture the period quite well. The D.W. Griffith cameo is elegant. That this was followed by the magnificent "Saint Jack" says a lot for Bogdanovich's range.
The knockabout comedy of the first half feels fairly forced and not very funny. However, when the storyline moves out West an affecting melancholy begins to creep in. Yes the Griffith worship is completely blind to the unsavoury aspects of his work and feels like a bit of a cheat. Overall it does work much better in the director approved black and white and at times feels a worthy companion to Paper Moon.
Ya, the director's cut, while not a perfect film, was very, very good, taking the screwball style developed in "What's Up, Doc" and applying it to a film filled with cinematic commentary. The Griffith worship is a little much (especially not including any racist scenes of "Birth of a Nation" in a ten minute excerpt) but this is a very overlooked film in the Bogdanovich oeuvre.