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Keeping Up with the Steins
DVD disk
Nov 14, 2006 By: Quigles
Keeping Up with the Steins order
Director:
Scott Marshall

Actors:
Jeremy Piven
Daryl Sabara
Larry Miller

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A young Jewish boy contends with his father who is trying endlessly to outdo the Steins' bar mitzvah for their son. In an attempt to distract attention away from it, he invites over his dad's estranged father, causing quite a bit of chaos around the household.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Now, I'm not Jewish, but I do have a Jewish friend, and I also watch SOUTH PARK. Plus, I sometimes eat bagels. Thus, I'd say my knowledge of the Jewish culture is not only extensive, but sophisticated as well. And obviously, I'm fully qualified to review KEEPING UP WITH THE STEINS, a movie focusing on a young Jewish boy's travels into adulthood. But hey, even if you're cultural awareness of them non-Christmas-celebratin' Jewish folk isn't as comprehensive as mine, that won't by any means stop you from enjoying the film. The actual movie, on the other hand, will.

What starts off as a fun, slightly goofy satire quickly takes a turn for the worst and becomes yet another standard, unfunny coming-of-age story... except about Jews. That's not me being ignorant/bigoted/racist/Kazakhstani - it's just an observation. The single standout thing about this film that sets it apart from all the other comedies of this ilk is the focus on the culture. That's it. Everything else feels about as manufactured as a box of... you know, stuff that's really manufactured. It's rather unfortunate too, seeing as how the material presented here is plenty ripe for a biting send-up. Instead, they remove all the "bite" and just leave in the corny jokes and annoying characters (like Irwin, the estranged father - he's not nearly as cool and fun-loving as the movie wants to make him seem).

The biggest problem with the movie though is the focus on the boy. In an attempt to create not just a film about the cultural differences of being a Jewish kid and what that's like growing up, the filmmaker's also tried to encompass what it's like being a kid in general. We see him experiencing a crush on a girl, getting drunk for the first time, trying to hide that he was looking at porn, etc. Had it not been handled in such a cheesy and predictable manner, this might've worked. But it was, and it doesn't. None of it feels authentic - worse yet, the entire movie has this sort of "artificial" quality about it. And I don't want to be mean, but leading lad Daryl Sabara (from the SPY KIDS flicks) just can't sustain a film by himself. It's not that he's an awful actor or anything (although he does tend to make it really obvious that he's, well, acting), it's that, more often than not, he's better at grating nerves than pulling heartstrings. And Jeremy Piven (who by the way I think is awesome) doesn't fare much better. He's basically cast as a jerk. Sure, he wants the best for his son, and of course in the end he learns that what's really important in life is... being together... as a family... and loving... one... another... *zzzzzzzzzz*

Huh, wha? Oh, sorry about that. Dozed off for a second.
THE EXTRAS
There aren't a whole lot of special features to check out here, but they've got all the basic stuff.

Audio Commentary (with director Scott Marshall and father/actor Gary Marshall): This father-son track (the father being an actor in the film, as well as the director of PRETTY WOMAN, and the son being the director of this particular movie) is certainly chatty, but it just sort of rambles from topic to topic. Gary Marshall has some speaking skills, though.

Audio Commentary (with director Scott Marshall and writer/producer Mark Zakarin): This commentary is more informative than the last, with Zakarin standing out as the more interesting of the two. Worth listening if you enjoyed the film.

Behind the Scenes (8:21): A standard interview-laden featurette featuring some behind-the-scenes clips and practically nothing of interest that you couldn't find on IMDB.

Deleted Scenes (7:45 - with optional commentary by Scott Marshall and Mark Zakarin): There are six deleted scenes, none of which are all that interesting to watch.

Also included are several Sneak Peeks for various movies and TV show DVDs.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
This movie doesn't deliver what you'd expect (and hope) it would. That being, a clever satire involving a dad trying to show up another family by way of his son's bar mitzvah. Nope, it instead travels down the road of the sentimental family drama, with all the non-likable characters making up in the end and realizing the true meaning behind... *zzzzzzzzzz*

...Oh sorry, did I do it again?
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