If you like Jeremy Piven, who plays Ari on HBO's hit comedy "Entourage," then you should be keen to learn that the character he plays in the little-known Keeping Up with the Steins is also a Hollywood agent. Unfortunately, the movie is somewhat of a coming-of-age story for his son, rated PG-13 and provides very little of Ari's known rants.
Keeping Up with the Steins follows 13-year old Benjamin Fiedler (Daryl Sabara) as he prepares for his upcoming bar mitzvah. His father (Piven), a Hollywood agent with lots of connections, wants to outdue his neighbors the Steins by having it held at Dodger Stadium with every known celebrity he can think of. Ben, however, doesn't really care that much. He can barely speak his required Hebrew, the girl he likes won't give him the time of day (not to mention the fact that he's pathetic when it comes to flirting) and his heart just isn't in it. He invites his white trash grandpa over to help him out, despite the fact that his father hates his dad's guts - and from there, all things go to Hell.
Some have said this is the My Big Fat Greek Wedding for Jewish people, but, unfortunately, it is not. There are some similarities, but the comparison seems more like a marketing ploy by the studio than anything else. Other than being about a bar mitzvah, there is really not much about Jewish people specifically, and perhaps that is part of the problem. I think it's safe to say that certain Jewish people can be more entertaining than others (the parents on "Seinfeld", anyone?), and they have some pretty vibrant traditions that can be translated well into a movie.
The movie is still relatively funny, but never laugh-out-loud funny. The grandpa (Garry Marshall) and his leaf-in-the-wind wife (Daryl Hannah) are pretty funny, but none of the other characters are really tapped to their full potential. Piven has a few outbursts, but I bet he's going to be careful next time he takes on a role as a Hollywood agent - he will always be compared to his character as Ari on "Entourage," and more than likely the comparison will be negative. He is absolutely hilarious on that show, and to see him do anything else is just a bit disappointing.
Sabara, in the lead, unfortunately is not very inspiring. Best known for his work in Spy Kids, Sabara has potential but has not mastered his comedic timing. He serves as more of a window to watch the other characters around him, and never really takes control of the jokes handed to him. Some of the jokes he gets to work with are rather childish, and he certainly isn't the highlight of the film.
Keeping Up with the Steins has its moments and is certainly watchable, but isn't anything spectacular. Had the screenwriters simply packed more laughs into the same screenplay, the movie really could have been something. Instead, it's a good but forgettable comedy.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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