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Laramie Movie Scope:
Keeping Up With the Steins

One-upsmanship in L.A. bar mitzvahs

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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December 2, 2006 -- “Keeping Up With the Steins” is a comedy about one-upsmanship among several Jewish families in Hollywood. Adam Fiedler (played by Jeremy Piven of “Old School”) is a Hollywood agent who wants the best bar mitzvah ever for his son, Benjamin (Daryl Sabara of “Spy Kids”). He remembers how humiliated he was at his own bar mitzvah and wants to spare his son the embarrassment. Fiedler has never forgiven his estranged, ne'er do well father, Irwin (played by veteran actor, writer, director and producer Garry Marshall, who is the real life father of this film's director, Scott Marshall). Irwin left him and his mother, Rose (Doris Roberts of the “Everybody Loves Raymond” TV series) alone when he was just a boy. Adam Fiedler's wife, Joanne (Jami Gertz of “Twister”) tries in vain to keep Adam from obsessing over everything.

Having the best bar mitzvah ever is going to be a big challenge. The movie opens with the Fiedlers attending Zachary Stein's (played by Carter Jenkins) ridiculously lavish bar mitzvah. It has a Titanic theme, complete with a near life-sized reproduction of the doomed ship and an elaborate musical number, staged by Fiedler rival Arnie Stein (Larry Miller of “A Mighty Wind”). Determined to do better, Fiedler rents Dodger Stadium and prepares to get some major league baseball players to help with the ceremony. He hires a major league party planner, Casey Nudelman (Cheryl Hines of “RV”) to upgrade the bar mitzvah. He documents the extensive party preparations with a film crew. His son, Benjamin is less than excited about his father's obsession. He is having doubts and is suffering a lot of anxiety about the ceremony and doesn't want this much fuss or attention. He decides to invite his grandfather, Irwin, to come to the Bar Mitzvah, hoping that will distract his father.

The plan works at least partly, Irwin and his wife, Sacred Feather, or Sandy (Daryl Hannah of “Kill Bill”) cause a turmoil in the Fiedler household. Despite the friction, Joan, Benjamin, Irwin and Sacred Feather all get along just fine. Adam is the lone holdout. Will Dodger Stadium be big enough to hold the feuding Fiedlers? Will Irwin and Adam ever be able to reconcile their differences? Will Benjamin get the confidence he needs to do his recitation? The bar mitzvah proves to be just the thing to shake up the Fiedlers. They start looking at things in a new perspective. It is a heartwarming, pleasant little comedy with some good performances. You don't have to be Jewish to enjoy this movie. It is really about families, communication and conspicuous consumption. It does have a bit about the religious background of the ceremony, however. The film includes appearances by DJ Quik, Adam Goldberg, Bill O'Reilly and Neil Diamond. It rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics, theater tickets and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2006 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)