June 1, 2006


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Keeping Up with the Steins (PG-13)
Benjamin Fiedler suffers from an assortment of pre-bar mitzvah potential crises — most brought on by his family — in Keeping Up with the Steins, a sweet if somewhat sitcomy little comedy.

Sure, it’s Ben’s (Daryl Sabara) party but it becomes a part of his agent father Adam’s (Jeremy Piven) continuing attempt to one-up former partner Arnie Stein (Larry Miller). This means hiring a party planner, picking a theme and getting over-the-top entertainment and giveaways — after all, little Zachary Stein’s (Carter Jenkins) bar mitzvah had a Titanic theme complete with Kate Winslet lookalike. Ben’s too busy freaking out about learning his haftorah and getting the attentions of class beauty Ashley Grunwald (Brittany Robertson) to care much about party themes.

Hoping to distract his dad from his insane bar mitzvah plans, Ben decides to invite his estranged grandfather Irwin (Gary Marshall) to the bar mitzvah, changing the invitation so Irwin shows up two weeks early.

Now a commune-dwelling aging hippy, Irwin shows up with his much younger girlfriend Sacred Feather (Daryl Hannah), a fact that seems to bother Adam even more than it bother’s Adam’s mother Rose (Doris Roberts).

Wackines, naturally, ensues.

Keeping Up with the Steins doesn’t do the business-importance-of-bar-mitzvah’s nearly as well as the last season of Entourage did, nor is Piven’s Adam nearly as much fun as his Ari. Despite the title, the movie isn’t really about an arms race with the neighbors but about a grab bag of family issues, any of which would make for a moderately watchable sitcom. Since it’s a movie, Keeping Up with the Steins seems to shove a season’s worth of episodes into its story, with every problem touched on just long enough to provide a few jokes and then reach a solution so we can move on to the next one. A good trimming of some of the many plot threads and the overflowing cast would have done the movie some good. The film offers familial sweetness but not much else. C-

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