Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Jewtopia: the Off-Broadway Hit with Names You’ll Know
was an Off-Broadway hit that inspired a world tour and a coffee table
book. As a bonus, it also had a real
story, not just dudes in blue make-up, banging on trash cans, making it a natural
candidate for a film treatment. Director
Bryan Fogel and his original co-writer Sam Wolfson have duly adapted the big
screen version of Jewtopia (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
O’Connell makes Miracle Whip look earthy.
His happiest times were spent dating college girlfriend Rebecca Ogin,
because he enjoyed the way she took charge of their relationship. He never really recovered after she dumped
him at graduation over the whole non-Jewish thing. Years later, the clueless O’Connell crashes a
Jewish singles mixer and somehow scores the phone number of Alison Marks, a
wanting to repeat past disappointments, O’Connell tries to reinvent himself as
Avi Rosenberg, with the help of his childhood friend, Adam Lipschitz. Meanwhile, Lipschitz is having panic attacks
at the prospect of his impending marriage to Hannah, who is exactly the sort of
woman O’Connell always desired, except maybe more so.
ready for a bushel of borscht-belt identity jokes. You can probably guess at some of the
complication that will arise as O’Connell/Rosenberg woos Marks, but Jewtopia features not one, but two
sequences involving surgery in private places (so consider yourself
warned). Indeed, there is no shortage of
gags to tut-tut over, but Fogel never really lights out into gleefully
offensive Mel Brooks territory. Still, Joel
David Moore is effectively manic as Lipschitz, scoring most of the film’s
laughs, while developing some appealing chemistry with Elaine Tan’s Sala Khan,
an attractive and ever so unlikely alternative to his painfully caricatured fiancée.
Love Hewitt is actually not bad as Marks and Ivan Sergei (probably most
recognizable from John Woo’s Once a Thief)
is reasonable presentable as O’Connell.
Even professionally sensitive viewers will chuckle at Jon Lovitz and Wendie
Malick doing their shtick as Adam’s father and Alison’s mother,
respectively. Unfortunately, Rita Wilson
and Jamie-Lynn Sigler never overcome their characters’ unsubtle clichés.
Much of Jewtopia’s
humor might resonate to some extent with its target audience, but the WASP
jokes, mostly involving guns and bigotry, fall rather flat. Really, that’s best Fogel could do for
gentiles? Regardless, it is all harmless
fluff that Moore, Lovitz, and Malik industriously milk for laughs as best they
can. Better left to die-hard fans of the
stage production, Jewtopia opens this
Friday (9/20) in New York at the Quad Cinema.
Labels: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jon Lovitz