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"Keeping Up With the Steins": A bar mitzvah, bar none
Special to The Seattle Times
Actor-producer-director Garry Marshall gave the world "Happy Days," "Pretty Woman," the voice of Buck Cluck in "Chicken Little" and another Marshall working behind the camera (besides sister Penny): his son, Scott. Scott, in turn, gives us his dad's naked backside in "Keeping Up With the Steins."
In this comfy comedy about an awkward family reunion, the elder Marshall plays Irwin, a free-spirited teacher with a ponytail, a sweet hippie girlfriend (Daryl Hannah) and an inclination to go skinny-dipping. It hasn't always been that way: Irwin was once a husband and father who abandoned his middle-class Jewish family 26 years ago.
Irwin's son, Adam (Jeremy Piven), a Hollywood agent, has been obsessing about throwing an extravagant bar mitzvah for his son, Ben (Daryl Sabara, who played Juni in the "Spy Kids" series). A rival agent (Larry Miller) has raised the stakes by renting a cruise ship and putting on a Titanic-themed rite of passage for his own boy. Adam plans to top him by staging Ben's affair at Dodger Stadium.
Wise Ben just wants Adam to reconcile with the estranged Irwin. After all, doesn't the bar mitzvah have something to do with a sacred tradition passing from one generation to another and another? But Adam is in an unforgiving mood when his father shows up, despite the example of his more charitable mother (a delightful Doris Roberts) and wife (Jami Gertz).
Irwin's late-blooming readiness to be the man for Ben that he couldn't be for Adam makes for some touching moments. In an unexpectedly compelling scene, Irwin presses Ben's rabbi (Richard Benjamin) to overcome apathy and help Ben understand the significance of the bar mitzvah.
Excellent casting lifts this sitcomlike script. Young Sabara, whose eyes are reminiscent of Dustin Hoffman's in "The Graduate" (both characters are named Ben, and both sit at the bottom of swimming pools during family parties), is a joy.
Tom Keogh: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company