Keeping Up with the Steins (2006) (region 2) (Import)
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Skadinavian Edition, PAL/Region 2 DVD: Subtitles: Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish, English, Dutch, Spanish, Polish, French. All hilarity breaks loose in this heartwarming coming-of-age comedy when three generations collide in a crazy family reunion... and then begin to see that they are much more alike than they'd originally thought! Providing nonstop laughs in the tradition of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Keeping Up With The Steins stars Jeremy Piven (TV's Entourage), Jami Gertz (Ally McBeal), Daryl Hannah (Kill Bill) and Garry Marshall (A League Of Their Own). Also starring Doris Roberts (TV's Everybody Loves Raymond), Cheryl Hines (TV's Curb Your Enthusiasm) and Larry Miller (The Princess Diaries).
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Benjamin Fiedler (Daryl Sabara) and his parents Adam and Joanne (Jeremy Piven, Jami Gertz), who live in Brentwood, CA, attend an over-the-top Titanic-themed Bar Mitzvah given by Arnie Stein (Larry Miller) for his son. Adam, a Hollywood agent, determined to "blow away the Steins", hires an event planner to plan a blockbuster event held at Dodger Stadium. Benjamin, overwhelmed and confused over what a Bar Mitzvah means anyway, decides to deflate his father's bluster by secretly inviting Adam's father Irwin (Garry Marshall), who left Adam's mother Rose (Doris Roberts) decades ago. Irwin arrives in his RV with his free-spirited girlfriend Sacred Feather (Darryl Hannah), two weeks early according to Benjamin's doctored invitation. Adam complains, "My driveway has become a trailer park!"
This film boasts of a good roster of supporting character actors, including Marshall, Roberts, Miller, and Richard Benjamin as the rabbi. The man portraying the Bar/Bat Mitzvah teacher was as cute as all out. Although this movie surely wasn't intended as a primer for Bar Mitvahs, the film shows scenes of the class, as well as Irwin's attempts to deepen Benjamin's understanding of the ceremony. I wish the film had explored the religious and spiritual questions even further, but this isn't The Chosen.
I don't think this film overindulges in Jewish stereotypes, though that's not for me to say. You do get more than one glimpse of Marshall's bare toukus while he's swimming, and you also get some thoughts about materialism, family responsibility, and spirituality, as Benjamin starts to discover and assert his budding adulthood. I recommend this film as PG-13-level family entertainment.
The first scene involves a wealthy family celebrating their sons Bar Mitzvah with a Titanic theme and a titanic expenditure to match. Now the Fiedler family feels they have to live up to the same hype. It's a cute story line about family coming together and not always getting along but it obviously works out well in the end as you'd expect.
I really liked this - I think it's a movie that people of all faiths can enjoy. It's got some great moments in it and some good laughs too. Look out at the end for a surprise performance from an amazing famous Jewish male singer staring as himself. I love it and hope you do too.
"Steins" is a small if innocuous gem - a small movie with a lot of familiar faces. It looks like that kind of movie that people make to unwind while making bigger and more trying movies, and the cast looks like they had about as much fun making the movie as I did watching it. There are small but nuanced performances, and the cast gets through the plots small but myriad challenges. The story never congeals - the hated Steins are almost non-entities in a movie that bares their name. But the script won't require much effort to keep up with its in-Jewish jokes (like the difference between "Nachos" & "Nachas"). The basic point of the story (that some of these celebrations are so overdone that those involved lose sight of what they're celebrating) isn't too heavily delivered, and if there aren't any real jokes, the understated performances are guaranteed to keep a smile on your face - like Benji's grandmother, the story gets its point across without having to openly speak its mind. If you need a rest from exploding cars and devilish fashion editors, drop by The Steins.
But when Benjamin secretly invites his estranged hippie grandfather to the bar mitzvah two weeks early, things take an interesting turn. Over the course of the film, Benjamin develops a bond with his grandfather and begins to understand the true meanings of bar mitzvah and manhood and maturity.
So does Benjamin's father. He learns that becoming a Bar Mitzvah (son of the commandment) is not about having a huge party and outdoing the Steins, it's about becoming emotionally and spiritually mature, something that finally begins to happen to him at his own son's bar mitzvah. In a way, the father also becomes a son of the commandment at the same time his son does.
This is one of the better movies I've seen in a while, much more good natured and heartwarming than most Hollywood offerings.