A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know the film includes jokes concerning a 13-year-old boy's burgeoning sexual interests, as well as his anxiety about "becoming a man" via his bar mitzvah. Using broad Jewish, uptight-suburban, and "hippie" stereotypes, the film establishes a series of conflicts to be resolved by the end. The film includes mild language, several sexual allusions (as 13-year-olds begin to notice the opposite sex), and some underage drinking (three boys steal liquor from parents' cabinet, get tipsy, and then one throws up, whereupon his grandfather covers for him, understanding that "boys will be boys"). A grandfather and his younger girlfriend appear naked in a pool (the grandson sees their naked behinds). The grandfather pulls out a sword to fight off an angry driver.
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What's the story?
Young Benjamin Fiedler (Daryl Sabara) worries that he'll make a mistake during his upcoming bar mitzvah, unaware that his father, Adam (Jeremy Piven), is still haunted by the mistake he made at his own bar mitzvah. When the Fiedler's neighbors, the Steins, decide to throw a bigger-than-life celebration for their son, Adam plots his son's ceremony so as to outdo his neighbor. Meanwhile, Benji decides he can't handle the pressure and decides to create a diversion at his bar mitzvah by inviting his estranged grandfather Irwin, whose abandonment of his son and wife Rose (Doris Roberts) left Adam seething with resentment. Now living on an Indian reservation with girlfriend Sacred Feather (Daryl Hannah), Grandpa is full of remorse, advice, and energetic attention for Benji, exactly what neurotic Adam can't manage. Benji begins to see his father in a new light, flawed and sometimes menacing, yes, but also as a son himself, disappointed and unable to move on. Irwin, in turn, learns the value of family even in the face of stress and compromise, the conditions he was unable to face as a young man.
Is it any good?
KEEPING UP WITH THE STEINS is both broad and affectionate, wielding stereotypes like blunt force instruments. Yes, all the Fiedler boys have lessons to learn, including forgiveness, flexibility, and the meaning of the Haftarah. The women who tend to them play equally conventional parts, though they are considerably less annoying. Sacred Feather, Rose, and Benji's mom Joanne (Jamie Gertz) affect predictable, sweet, long-suffering poses. You only wish they were allowed more movement -- at least as much as those antic boys.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the tension between Irwin and Adam, as this is premised on Irwin's abandonment of his family 20 years before: How can Adam forgive his father? (And how is it hard for him to accept that his mother forgives his father?) How can traditional rituals (like bar mitzvahs or birthday parties) simultaneously be exciting and stressful?
- In theaters: May 12, 2006
- On DVD or streaming: October 31, 2006
- Cast: Garry Marshall, Jami Gertz, Jeremy Piven
- Director: Scott Marshall
- Studio: Miramax
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Misfits and underdogs
- Run time: 99 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some crude language, nudity and brief drug references
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