Keeping Up with the Steins

by Alan Rapp on June 16, 2006

in Movie Reviews 

This comedy about parents trying to out-do each other, young boys becoming men, and fathers and sons is okay.  Not groundbreaking or a laugh riot but there’s something to be said for nice (if predictable) family films such as this.  While not as good as it could be and really constrains a comedic actor like Jeremy Piven in a straight-man role, it does come off as much more charming than it should and is worth a look for families looking for films to see together.

Keeping Up with the Steins
3 Stars

A rather small niche film such as Keeping Up with the Steins can easily get lost especially in the shuffle of big summer Hollywood popcorn flicks.  There are some fine performances that makes a nice additional option for families looking to spend some time together at the movie theater.  Not great and not bad, it’s just really okay; not the best recommendation I’ll grant you but there are many less entertaining ways to spend an hour and a half (after all, X3 is still showing).

The Fiedler famly is about to celebrate a milestone as young Benjamin Fiedler (Daryl Sabara) will celebrate his Bar Mitzvah.  It should be a time of great pride and joy, but this is a comedy so things naturally go wrong. 

It all starts out with the Titanic themed Bar Mitzvah of Benjy’s friend Zachary Stein (Carter Jenkins).  Benjy’s dad Adam (Jeremy Piven) once worked for, and is now in competition with, Zach’s dad Arnie (Larry Miller) and is determined to throw a bigger party than his rival.

Benjamin himself is going through crises of his own and to get his parents off his case he invites his long lost grandfather Irwin (Gary Marshall) to the party knowing it will drive his father crazy.  And when Irwin and his new girlfriend Sacred Feather (Daryl Hannah) arrive things get interesting.

The star of the film is Sabara and he does a fine job as the young kid who is still unsure if he’s ready or even wants to become a man.  Over the course of the film with the help of his grandfather and rabbi (Richard Benjamin) Benjy matures and begins to grow up.  Although the story is a Jewish one it’s done in a way to appeal to coming of age stories of any religious background.  It’s the story of fathers and sons and how those relationships change over time as you get older.

There are fine performances from Jami Gertz as Benjy’s mother and Doris Roberts as he grandmother.  And a funny, if somewhat unnecessary role, for Cheryl Hines as the event planner rounding out the cast, and of course Miller is great playing his standard putz role.  It’s Piven who comes off a little too constrained by the script and only can tap into his manic zaniness to provide too few moments of crazed comedy for fans of his other work.

It’s not a must see film by any means, nor will you be missing much by passing.  It’s a small niche film for mostly older women of the Jewish persuasion but one that I think many different American families can enjoy.  The PG-13 rating is due to some minor drug references and comedic nudity of Gary Marshall that is rather harsh as this is a feel good comedy with strong family themes that probably should have been given a PG.

The film is directed by Scott Marshall – son of Gary and nephew of Penny Marshall which obviously got the film more money and attention than a small project like this would normally earn.  Not a must-see but you could find far worse things in your cineplex, and for an entertaining if foregettable film it’s a nice hour and a half that most will enjoy.

Previous post:

Next post: