Fiedler on the Hoof
Benjamin Fiedler (Daryl Sabara) has something big on his mind, his Bar Mitzvah is coming up and thanks to his friend Zachary having a Titanic themed Bar Mitzvah party on a cruise ship there is even more pressure. His parents Adam (Jeremy Piven - Two for the Money) and Joanne (Jami Gertz - Undercover Christmas) are determined to throw a Bar Mitzvah party to rival that of the Stein's and even hire Casey (Cheryl Hines) the same Bar Mitzvah planner that the Stein's used. With his father hiring a film crew to follow him around Benjamin comes up with an idea to take the pressure off for a few days by secretly inviting his estranged grandfather Irwin (Garry Marshall - Never Been Kissed) to show up two weeks early knowing that it will distract his father and give him some thinking time.
"Keeping Up with the Steins" only last 90 minutes and you can split it in two with the first 30 minutes being this amusing comedy about young Benjamin dealing with his parents doing as the title says trying to keep up with the Steins. It is entertaining daft from the over the top Titanic themed Bar Mitzvah party to Benjamin dealing with some typical teen issues from having a crush on the pretty Ashley to him and his friends sneaking alcohol and mixing it. It is obvious but a lot of fun for being over the top with the wonderful Cheryl Hines cast as the enthusiastic Bar Mitzvah planner.
But then you get the second part with the arrival of Benjamin's eccentric grandfather Irwin with his girlfriend Sacred Feather. Now it is still a lot of fun especially thanks to the wonderful Garry Marshall who is wonderfully quirky as the estranged grandfather. But whilst there is still a lot of humour the focus shifts to the relationships between Grandfather, father and son. It makes it quite predictable as there are arguments and bonding and pearls of wisdom but still a whole lot of fun with plenty of good writing to stop it ever becoming boring for being predictable
The success of "Keeping Up with the Steins" comes down to some good writing but a lot of great casting. As already mentioned Garry Marshall is brilliant as the eccentric grandfather but then Jeremy Piven is just as good as Adam with his combined dislike of his father and the need to throw a better Bar Mitzvah than the Steins. Add in the wonderful Doris Roberts and equally good Jami Gertz as well as Daryl Hannah and there are plenty of well known faces bringing comical characters to the screen. And then there is Daryl Sabara as Benjamin and to be honest Sabara brilliantly underplays his part so he is never annoying even in a daft scene such as when he tries to style his ginger hair with gel.
What this all boils down to is that "Keeping Up with the Steins" is nothing really new as it is a coming of age comedy with the focus being a Jewish kid. But the casting and the writing is perfect to make it a lot of fun.