Keeping Up With The Steins
Published Feb 16, 2007
Zachary Stein’s bar mitzvah is an epic production, a Titanic-themed extravaganza on a cruise ship culminating in a floorshow with icebergs, mermaids and Zachary proclaiming, "I’m the king of the Torah!” This is bad news for Zachary’s best friend, Benjamin Fiedler, who is already dreading his own bar mitzvah. But now his Hollywood agent dad Adam (Jeremy Piven), an ex-partner and rival of Zachary’s father, is determined to outdo the Stein Bar Mitzvah. Benjamin tries to distract him with an attempted reconciliation with his own estranged father (Garry Marshall), who abandoned the family years before, and now lives on a Navajo reserve with his girlfriend Sacred Feather (a hippy-dippy Daryl Hannah). In the end, Benjamin learns how to be a man from both his father and his grandfather (who passes on the age-old skills of fishing, flirting and sobering up), the whole family learn lessons about family and forgiveness, and Neil Diamond even shows up to sing "Hava Neghila.” This sweet movie starts off extremely funny but loses its satirical edge as it progresses. Its sitcom savvy cast (besides Piven and Marshall, Doris Roberts and Jami Gertz play Benjamin’s mom and grandmother) work well with a clever script but it never rises above (or sinks below) being a touching family comedy. The focus on father-son relationships is made more poignant by the fact that newbie director Scott Marshall is Garry Marshall’s son, and their father/son/actor/director commentary is a treat, as Marshall the père ribs his son about the indignities of this low-budget shoot and reveals enormous pride in his son’s achievement in the family business. A second commentary by Scott Marshall and screenwriter Mark Zakarin is also interesting, and there is an average "behind the scenes” featurette and deleted scenes.