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Keeping Up With The Steins - Movie Review
By Jason Manheim, Editor in Chief - May 15, 2006

Keeping Up With the Steins - Movie Review
Keeping Up With The Steins, With Jeremy Piven, Jami Gertz, Daryl Hannah, Garry Marshall, Doris Roberts, & Daryl Sabara
 
Jeremy Piven, Jami Gertz, Garry Marshall, Doris Roberts, & Daryl Sabara
Jeremy Piven, Jami Gertz, Garry Marshall, Doris Roberts, & Daryl Sabara
 
Garry Marshall, Daryl Sabara, & Jeremy Piven
Garry Marshall, Daryl Sabara, & Jeremy Piven
 
Garry Marshall & Darryl Hannah
Garry Marshall & Darryl Hannah
At the opening of Keeping Up With the Steins, Adam Fiedler (Jeremy Piven from Entourage) witnesses the overdone and obscenely expensive Bar Mitzvah that the Stein family throws for their son. He then becomes determined to outdo Arnie Stein by making his son the biggest and most opulent Bar Mitzvah that the neighborhood of Brentwood, California has ever seen. This is not an easy task, considering the wealth and privilege amongst most Brentwood residents, most specifically rival talent agent Arnie Stein, played by the always hilarious Larry Miller. From that point on, he and his wife (Jami Gertz), go into a party planning frenzy. They get carried away with over the top themes, venues, décor and huge guest lists, completely disregarding their son's lack of interest in such an extravagant affair. Twelve year old Benjamin Fiedler (Daryl Sabara) is more concerned with fitting in among his peers, his impending stage fright and reuniting his father (Jeremy Piven) with his estranged grandfather played by Garry Marshall. Marshall plays Irwin Fiedler, an aging hippie who abandoned his family and fled to New Mexico to live on a reservation. Doris Roberts plays Rose Fiedler, the long suffering abandoned wife and mother to Jeremy Piven's character. Adam Fiedler (Jeremy Piven) remains steadfast in his resentment towards his father, as Irwin Fielder (Garry Marshall) tries to bond with his grandson, Benjamin. Adding insult to injury, Irwin brings his young blonde girlfriend with him for the occasion, played by Darryl Hannah.

I anticipated a typical screwball comedy focusing on the surface plot - Adam Fiedler rushing around like a chicken without a head desperately trying to one up his professional rival Arnie Stein, while Stein tries to sabotage him at every turn. Keeping Up With the Steins actually turned out to be a heartwarming coming of age comedy about a young boy trying to determine what it means to become a man and all the while encouraging his family to become whole once again. If you are Jewish, then all of the cultural idiosyncrasies, language and references will warm your heart and feel comfortably familiar. Even if you're not Jewish, you can appreciate the characters in this movie the same way the entire country appreciated My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Greek and non-Greek alike. Well meaning family members get caught up in everything but what their child wants and needs until he finally gets the courage to bring it to their attention.

As this plot rolls on, we see Garry Marshall's character, Irwin Fiedler, continue to make up for lost time by taking a fatherly role with his grandson Benjamin, and really tuning into the thoughts and worries of the twelve year old boy. The backdrop of the movie is still well sprinkled with comedic bits of competition between Arnie Stein and Adam Fiedler, and the absurdity that is the overly ostentatious Bar Mitzvah after-party. You can tell that the movie is in on the joke, that Bar Mitzvahs and Bat Mitzvahs in many neighborhoods have lost most of their true meaning and have become a showpiece for who can throw the most entertaining and expensive party for their child. The movie essentially pokes fun at itself, which is refreshing.

The way in which the characters finally resolve their conflicts toward the end of the film is somewhat "sit-com'ish" and a bit simplified, yet still manages to be quite endearing as it offers some humorous and surprising twists. Director Scott Marshall has followed in his father, Garry Marshall's, footsteps. He manages to create that "feel good" reaction in audiences, as I could tell from the packed house I sat with. This film also shows a side to Jeremy Piven and Garry Marshall that we haven't seen, as they both play against type. Although Jeremy Piven plays, what else, a Hollywood talent agent, this character is much more sensitive and sympathetic than his Entourage character, Ari Gold. Young actor Daryl Sabara, pulls off the role of an intelligent, precocious and awkward young man and you genuinely care about his character, Benjamin. The way this film is shot and edited, makes you feel like a family member staying at the Fiedler home, and anticipating young Benjamin Fiedler's Bar Mitzvah. I found myself really caring about this family and becoming engrossed in their relationships, which to me is the mark of a good movie. It felt like time and money well spent. There are no love scenes, explosions, special effects or car chases, but if you are looking for a character driven coming of age comedy, then Keeping Up With the Steins is a must see. A

Keeping Up With the Steins
Rated PG-13, Runtime 99 min., theatrical release 5/12/06 nationwide

Keeping Up With the Steins - Movie Review


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