Keeping Up with the Steins

Hot on the heels of the Passover "comedy" When Do We Eat? comes a Bar Mitzvah inspired "comedy," Keeping Up with the Steins.  "Comedy" is in quotes because these films are supposed to be funny, but are not.  These movies typically take cultural events, mix them with dysfunctional families and some mild stereotypical humor.  Then, they add in some huge argument before a touchy-feely resolution.  This time around, it's Bar Mitzvah time for Benjamin Fielder (Daryl Sabara, The Polar Express, Spy Kids 3D), which means he makes the transition from boy to man.  For his father Adam (Jeremy Piven, Two for the Money, Chasing Liberty), it is all about throwing a huge party, especially one that outdoes his rival Arnie Stein (Larry Miller, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, The Princess Diaries 2).  Stein just held a party on a boat with a special appearance by DJ Quik (who actually appears on the film).

In other words, the Bar Mitzvah has nothing to do with Benjamin, and is all about Arnie.  Arnie and his wife Joanne (Jami Gertz, Lip Service, Twister) work with event planner Casey Nudelman (Cheryl Hines, R.V., Herbie:  Fully Loaded) to come up with a party that includes Dodger Stadium and a customized menu.  Incidentally, Nudelman was the same planner who did the Stein event.  Left along the wayside is Benjamin, who struggles with his Hebrew and feels more comfortable as a boy than he does as a man.

And every dysfunctional family needs insane grandparents.  Adam's mother Rose (Doris Roberts, Grandma's Boy, Dickie Roberts) raised him after his father Irwin (Garry Marshall, Chicken Little, The Long Ride Home).  Adam is extremely bitter towards Irwin, who arrives in a trailer with his hippie girlfriend (Daryl Hannah, Supercross, Kill Bill Vol. 2).  He sports a ponytail and enjoys skinny-dipping in the Fielder pool.  Benjamin bonds with Irwin, who also begins the process of making up with Rose.  Both these things cause much consternation to Adam, and lots of arguing ensues.  Aside from the generic feel-good tone of Keeping Up with the Steins, director Scott Marshall (son of Garry) and screenwriter Mark Zakarin do little to meaningfully delve into the lives of these characters.

Keeping Up with the Steins is a television comedy masking as a movie.  All of the conflicts are over exaggerated, and the comedy a bit on the broad side.  It is a foregone conclusion that the family will eventually reconcile.  When it does happen, it's nice but not anything special.  The movie has enough of the people-pleasing elements to make audiences smile, but that doesn't mean it's any good.  Many of the jokes rely on Marshall (Garry) baring his rear.  The "keeping up" part of the film disappears after about half an hour, when Marshall (Scott) decides to focus on the father/son dynamic.  Piven is annoying as an angry, twitchy father, and everybody else is pretty forgettable.

Mongoose Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour 39 minutes, Rated PG-13 for some crude language, nudity, and brief drug references.

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