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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 6.38%
Average: 12.77%
Pretty Bad: 29.79%
Total Crap: 19.15%

5 reviews, 17 user ratings

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Keeping Up with the Steins
[] Buy posters from this movie
by William Goss

"Torah Borah"
2 stars

The Stein bar mitzvah is an extravagant one, complete with a large-scale Titanic reproduction and the kid even screaming, “I’m the king of the Torah!” Unfortunately, this scene both sounds funnier on paper and kicks off 'Keeping Up With The Steins,' which proceeds to not only grow less amusing as it proceeds, but even betrays its own title as the story becomes less about the social pressure to flaunt financial wealth via religious functions and more about the sentimental meaning of family and religion.

The whole movie is gratingly narrated by Benjamin Fiedler (Daryl Sabara, Spy Kids) as his bar mitzvah nears and his parents harass him to pick a theme with which to outdo the Steins, fueled by a rivalry between Arnie Stein (Larry Miller) and Ben’s father, Adam (Jeremy Piven), a former colleague of Arnie’s. As Adam starts eyeing Dodger Stadium and 50 Cent, Ben decides to send an early invitation to his estranged grandfather (Garry Marshall, father of debut director Scott). Sure enough, priorities shift from who has the biggest bar mitzvah on the block to the typical multigenerational reconciliation and religious understanding.

Everything about Steins puts the ‘meh’ in ‘meshuga,’ from its sitcom-shallow premise to the clichés and stereotypes that are meant to pass for humor or heart but rarely succeed. It feels as if Marshall and company want so badly for this to be a My Big Fat Jewish Bar Mitzvah of sorts, forgetting the genuine appeal of that family farce and instead opting to schmear on the schmaltz. Ben is shy at school, shrilly butchering Hebrew and reluctant to ask out girls, while the rabbi pops in to plug his new book and pending Bill O’Reilly appearance instead of teaching the true meaning of the Torah, all of which straightens out either when Grandpa shows up or the third act does. Any of the initially sharp satire gives way to predictable life lessons and little laughs.

Few actors can harbor resentment quite as well as Piven, but him and Miller are merely recycling their previous roles without their trademark bite. Piven’s smarmy charm goes to waste, even when he has to do the typical silent in-car temper tantrum that still isn’t funny. Speaking of lazy staples of low-key comedies, the senior Marshall gets a chance to spit out Yiddish and flash his bare assets, since geriatric nudity is all the rage (see: Terry Bradshaw, Failure To Launch; Kathy Bates, About Schmidt). Doris Roberts goes through the paces as his ex, as does Cheryl Hines as the perky party planner, while Jami Gertz sits on the sidelines as the Fiedler mother and wife. As Marshall’s hippie girlfriend, Darryl Hannah’s performance seems to justify her recent tree-scaling habits, while Adam Goldberg makes an unnecessary cameo as a Jewish jerk and a surprise guest ends Steins with the closest thing to a Saving Silverman sequel that anyone could ever possibly hope to see.

Despite the best efforts of the cast, as well as that of relative newcomers Marshall and screenwriter Mark Zakarin, 'Keeping Up With The Steins' is resoundingly artificial and rarely amusing enough to merit a television viewing, let alone a theatrical release. Then again, it seems only apt that there's no place like home (video).

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originally posted: 07/05/06 11:28:16
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival. For more in the 2005 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival series, click here.

User Comments

12/16/06 David B Snider and Cornelius are clueless, I loved this movie 5 stars
6/11/06 Pat Lamb Much of the Cleveland audience looked like the extras in the film 5 stars
5/31/06 mark meyers Good comedy acting and lots of laughs 5 stars
5/30/06 Tim Funny at limes 4 stars
5/28/06 Jeff Anderson Better than expected, funny & surprisingly sweet. Piven & Gertz are an absolute delight 4 stars
5/21/06 Mase Light Hearted love letter to director Scott Marshals father Gary, if you like him enjoy! 4 stars
5/21/06 Maureen An embarrassment. I left early. 1 stars
5/13/06 Howard Horrible movie. A good idea was turned into something that is an embarassment. 1 stars
5/13/06 Randy L. To have such a good cast and have such bad dialogue, and comedy is sad. 1 stars
12/12/05 Shelly Gross Excellent 5 stars
6/22/05 Jake Malone Great Cast, Well Done, Fantastic 5 stars
2/28/05 Gina Deutsch Funny, touching and true 5 stars
2/25/05 Alex Levin Fantastic! I loved it. 5 stars
2/21/05 Mary Sanders Very Good! Very Funny! 5 stars
2/16/05 Robert Forester I walked out. Kind of boring. 2 stars
2/15/05 Dan Jacobs Funny, Cute, Charming and enjoyable. 5 stars
2/14/05 Alex Thompson Ugly nepotism rears its head. Totally lame. 2 stars
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  12-May-2006 (PG-13)
  DVD: 31-Oct-2006



Directed by
  Scott Marshall

Written by
  Mark Zakarin

  Jami Gertz
  Daryl Hannah
  Garry Marshall
  Jeremy Piven
  Doris Roberts
  Cheryl Hines

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