Keeping Up with the Steins

"Bad"

Keeping Up with the Steins Review


Garry Marshall as a free-spirited, Jewish hippie grandpa is funny. Garry Marshall's son, first-time director Scott Marshall, is not. Nor is his handling of a film just dying to be My Big Fat Jewish Bar Mitzvah (it even says so on the back of the DVD box), which just doesn't have the easy charm or lovable story to make that happen.

The planning and celebration of a bar mitzvah has wonderful comic potential. Family dysfunctions. Awkward pre-teen kids. All the meshuga ethnic eccentricities. What a shame to miss the mark on nearly all of it. The younger Marshall goes keeps it saccharine-light, and ends up with a stiff would-be comedy filled with talented stars and very few laughs.

Benji Fiedler (Spy Kids' Daryl Sabara) is preparing for the big day when, according to Jewish law, he will become a man. His adoring parents, played by Jeremy Piven and Jami Gertz with only one emotional note each, want to shoot the moon in order to outdo the bar mitzvah bash thrown by the annoying Steins (led by the always smug Larry Miller), which took place on a cruise ship, included a mock sinking of the Titanic, and boasted a ridiculous level of tacky opulence.

So while the Fiedlers work on a Dodger Stadium party with a dumb, grinning planner -- Cheryl Hines, wasting her time and ours -- Ben has another idea: He sneakily invites his estranged grandfather (Marshall), a selfish soul who abandoned his family decades earlier.

Once the familial connections are established, Scott Marshall, working from an amateurish script by The L Word writer Mark Zakarin, rotates among all the typical scenarios including A Life Lesson from Grandpa, A Hateful Son's Scorn, and A Change of Heart for Ben. If this were a well-executed family movie, you'd forgive the predictability. But the poor rhythm makes it all feel amazingly forced, and the actors, not a bad one in the bunch, all look like they're going through the motions.

At the very least, the matching of Piven and Marshall should have had some zest, some snap. Instead their conflict is as soft as a matzo ball, with both actors caught in immovable situations: Marshall lazily upholds his ponytail personality with bad jokes and a wave of the hand; worse, Piven plays a competitive Hollywood agent (thanks Entourage!) who does a lot of lip-pursing and anger-bottling. Piven is a fun, kinetic actor that's worlds better than this stuff.

And how about this for creativity? When three of the young guys down some alcohol with the parents away, they break into an old Fast Times at Ridgemont High gag when said parents return ("First, he's gonna crap! Then he's gonna kill us!"). And the entrée for family dinner? Brisket. Do you non-Jews (like both Marshalls, by the way) think L.A. Jews only eat deli food when cooking for family? Why not break out the Manischewitz and toss in a couple of "oy vey"s?

Even the technical execution is subpar. Dinnertime cutaways of an unhappy Piven resemble those classic, empty-looking reaction shots in The Brady Bunch. Like that show, Keeping Up with the Steins is aimed at families, but ultimately appeals only to younger kids. And with the level of talent participating on the screen, that'll make you all verklempt.

The DVD includes commentary track and deleted scenes, plus a making-of featurette.

You can almost smell the comedy.



Keeping Up with the Steins

Facts and Figures

Run time: 90 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 28th December 2006

Box Office USA: $4.3M

Distributed by: Miramax Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 1.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 37%
Fresh: 30 Rotten: 52

IMDB: 5.4 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Scott Marshall

Producer: A.D. Oppenheim, David Scharf, Mark Zakarin

Starring: as Benjamin Fiedler, as Joanne Fiedler, as Adam Fiedler, as Casey Nudelman, as Zachary Stein, as Raylene Stein, as Arnie Stein, as Rose Fiedler, as Irwin Fiedler, as Sandy / Sacred

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Dunkirk Movie Review

Dunkirk Movie Review

Britain's epic 1940 evacuation of Dunkirk has been dramatised on film before, but no one...

Killing Ground Movie Review

Killing Ground Movie Review

From Australia, this dark and edgy thriller is skilfully made by writer-director Damien Power to...

City of Ghosts Movie Review

City of Ghosts Movie Review

This award-winning documentary plays like a thriller as it traces the work of a group...

Cars 3 Movie Review

Cars 3 Movie Review

It's been six years since the last Cars movie (there were two Planes movies in...

The Beguiled Movie Review

The Beguiled Movie Review

In her inimitable loose style, Sofia Coppola remakes the 1971 Clint Eastwood movie from a...

War for the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

War for the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

The surprisingly thoughtful prequel trilogy comes to a powerful conclusion with this robust, dramatic thriller,...

It Comes At Night Movie Review

It Comes At Night Movie Review

This sharply original horror film not only approaches its premise from an unexpected angle, but...

Advertisement
Okja Movie Review

Okja Movie Review

As Tilda Swinton reteams with her Snowpiercer director, Korea's Bong Joon Ho, it's perhaps unsurprising...

Spider-Man: Homecoming Movie Review

Spider-Man: Homecoming Movie Review

This may be the third reboot of this franchise in 15 years, risking audience exhaustion,...

Despicable Me 3 Movie Review

Despicable Me 3 Movie Review

Actually the fourth film in the series (don't forget the prequel Minions), this animated super-villain...

Baby Driver Movie Review

Baby Driver Movie Review

Wildly energetic and so cool it hurts, this action movie has been put together in...

All Eyez On Me Movie Review

All Eyez On Me Movie Review

There's a clear sense that this Tupac Shakur biopic is hoping to build on the...

Hampstead Movie Review

Hampstead Movie Review

Deliberately appealing to older audiences, this undemanding comedy-drama comes with a hint of social relevance...

The Book of Henry Movie Review

The Book of Henry Movie Review

Apparently, this offbeat script had been making the rounds in Hollywood for some 20 years...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.