Published May 01, 2006Hailed by many as the Jewish My Big Fat Greek Wedding faint praise if I ever heard it Keeping Up with the Steins aims for gentle satire but ends up being almost as broad at its warm and fuzzy predecessor. What starts as a potential send-up of Hollywood mores quickly devolves into a painfully generic family comedy with a little Judaism-lite slapped on top.
Jeremy Piven stars as Adam Fiedler, an uptight, driven Hollywood agent now theres a stretch trying to give his son Benjamin (Spy Kids Daryl Sabara) the Bar Mitzvah of a lifetime without ever taking the time to see what his kid really wants. Opening with a promising scene of a grotesquely over-the-top Titanic-themed Mitzvah thrown by his archrival Arnie Stein complete with Ocean Liner and a gangsta rap version of "Hava Nagila the movie never lives up to the absurdity of this moment, focusing instead on the more predictable themes of family values and forgiveness.
Adam is dealing with some serious daddy issues of his own his deadbeat father abandoned him and his mother (Doris Roberts playing a kinder, gentler version of her Everybody Loves Raymond character) not too long after his own lacklustre Mitzvah and in his hyper-competitive state, he is convinced that giving his son the Bar Mitzvah he never had is the ultimate proof that he is the better father and provider. Sensing an opportunity for his father and grandfather to reconcile, Benjamin tries to force them to bond by inviting the freewheeling Grandpa Irwin (Garry Marshall, father of director Scott) two weeks early and you can pretty much guess the rest.
While the script gets points for not taking the story in at least one obvious direction, its still as cloying and warmed-over as a TV special, only with Benjamin finally realising the "true meaning of having a Bar Mitzvah instead of learning about the "true spirit of Christmas. Stereotypes abound Jami Gertz may not be the Jewish Princess but shes still the attractive, supportive wife and mother who doubles as the voice of reason but are never mocked so much as reinforced and the nauseatingly entitled culture of consumption is only barely critiqued.
While some might argue that its about time such an overtly Jewish story got the mainstream star treatment, the fact that it seems to have been created by people who have never left Hollywood make it as lacking in authenticity as it is in originality. (Alliance Atlantis)