Worth A Look: 6.38%
Just Average: 12.77%
Pretty Crappy: 29.79%
5 reviews, 17 user ratings
|Keeping Up with the Steins
by Katharine Leis
The film opens with a narration by thirteen year old Benjamin Fiedler (Daryl Sabara) describing the angst and nerves he is going through in preparation for his upcoming Bar Mitzvah. Not being Jewish or a boy, I felt a little insecure as to how much I’d “get” this movie, but it soon became apparent that knowledge of the culture is not necessary to enjoy this film.Benjamin and his family are caught up in the classic struggle of keeping up with the Joneses, or in this case, the Steins. Zachary Stein, also thirteen, is in the midst of celebrating his Bar Mitzvah, a million dollar Titanic themed event held on a luxury cruise ship, complete with mermaids and custom-made-everything.
"Truly entertaining from start to finish!"
Benjamin’s father Adam (Jeremy Piven) and mother Joanne (Jamie Gertz) are impressed with Zach’s Bar Mitzvah, and also determined to out-do it with something even bigger. Adam is a Hollywood agent, and impressing his clients is a big part of what has earned him his beautiful Brentwood estate and all the trimmings.
Benjamin’s grandmother, Adam’s mother Rose (Doris Roberts) also looks toward the event, until the question is posed to her as to whether or not to invite her former husband Irwin (Garry Marshall). Irwin left her and Adam many years earlier, and Adam has not spoken to him since, or even allowed him to visit with Benjamin.
Benjamin addresses the indecision by finding Irwin’s not yet mailed invitation, and skillfully adjusts it so that Irwin will arrive two weeks early.
Irwin lives with his girlfriend Sacred Feather (Darryl Hannah) on an Indian Reservation, and is about as opposite to the glitz and glamour of Beverly Hills as one can get. He accepts the invitation and sets out with Sacred Feather in his beat up old truck.
There are many stories and lessons that take place in this film, including the coming of age, teen puppy love, teen alcohol experimentation, parents and adult children attempting to reconcile, what drives people to be financially successful, forgiveness, resentment, and happiness. Without going into examples of each one, what is apparent in this film is that there was an awful lot of both thought and skill required to fit it all neatly into 99 minutes. The main story of Benjamin never lacked attention, but somehow, neither did the smaller stories of Irwin, Doris, Adam, and then some. Each character and sub plot was unique enough that it has not been seen too many times in countless movies, but general enough so that audience members of all ages and faiths could relate.
What was absent in this comedy were CGI effects of talking animals or babies, and there was no chain reaction foible that resulted in a disaster caused by the denoted bumbler who then needed to redeem himself.
Notice I used the word “absent,” not “missing.”
This film relied on the ability of the stellar cast to bring depth and reality to each character, and the strength of the story to carry it through. Touching moments were truly touching, not just signified by the standard Hollywood fare lighting and “you can cry now” music. Thirteen year olds speak and act the way thirteen year olds really speak and act. It seems many times they are either portrayed as naïve as five year olds or as experienced as twenty-one year olds, but in this movie they were allowed to just be thirteen.
I saw this film at the USCAF and had heard rave reviews from all who’d seen it the night before. I wanted to see it, but also was wary about anticipating it to be as great as people said. That usually is a recipe for disappointment.
It seems the theme of the past few years is to shock, to gross out, surprise, twist-end, out-do or film things so either absurd or gritty that the audience will remember and talk about them for days. The characters in Lucky 13 are more realistic than many of the characters in today’s reality shows. The story is told and the emotions are captured with the organized randomness of real life.
There is a great skill in the subtleties of this film, credit due to director Scott Marshall. He brings to it a perception and optimism of life in general that is not usually present in someone so young. Beyond all the lessons and trials and tribulations of family matters, he has done something that is rare in film as of late.
He used tact.
Rather than leaving the theater remembering only two or three funny moments from a comedy, or hit with a huge “lesson of the day” from a drama, leaving Lucky 13, I felt like I’d actually been told a story. Ultimately, that was supposed to be the goal of all films, but with digital flashiness so prevalent, it seems many times to be forgotten. In one scene between Irwin and Benjamin, Irwin sees Benjamin’s large screen TV with an incredibly realistic fishing video game and joystick that even looks like a reel. Rather than being impressed, Irwin says, “I don’t get it, why don’t you just go fishing?”
Instead of relying on the latest effects or digital techniques to try to wow audiences, Scott Marshall went back to the basics for this film and “just went fishing.” It’s about time somebody did. I hope and am sure we will see much more by Marshall in years to come.To pen Lucky 13 as “the” anything would be doing it a great disservice. It’s not “the” funniest movie ever, it’s not “the” most touching piece of cinematic mastery, and it’s not “the” story that audiences need to hear and see to change their lives forever. What it is, is a funny, sweet, and engaging portrait of a realistic yet fictional Californian family. Like most families, they are both selfish and selfless, arrogant and humble, wise and foolish. Lucky 13 is an enjoyable, family-friendly film that is truly entertaining from start to finish.
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originally posted: 02/17/05 13:22:27
|OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival. For more in the 2005 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival series, click here.