When it comes to comedic films, Jewish actor Adam Sandler has shown he can do it all. From 1990 to 1995, Sandler was a cast member of “Saturday Night Live” where he first performed “The Chanukkah Song” about celebrities who are Jewish.
Having crafted the popular holiday song, would he succeed in creating a hit great bat mitzvah movie casting his own daughter in the lead role? He certainly did, with Netflix’s “You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah” based on the young adult novel by Fiona Rosenbloom.
Sunny Sandler stars as Stacy Friedman, who has a huge crush on Andy Goldfarb, known as “the hottest guy in seventh grade.” In a funny dream sequence, he calls her “the finest Queen Esther I’ve ever laid eyes on.”
While Andy might not be the sharpest tool in the shed, Stacy admires his looks and he also wears a Jewish star necklace. He accidentally hits her in the head with a soccer ball due to an errant kick.
Directed by Sammi Cohen and scripted by Allison Peck, the film hits the right notes with a hilarious character named DJ Schumley, who wears a helmet and strange glasses for no apparent reason. Sandler nails his role as Danny Friedman, silencing a man who absurdly argues that students should have more homework.
Sunny cares mostly about the party, while Danny recalls that the theme of his own bar mitzvah was simply “being Jewish,” and encourages her to practice her haftorah. Stacy believes a successful bat mitzvah will ensure her a “fab life,” yet she’s concerned that the ratio of “old people to normal people” is off. She’s also uncertain about her mitzvah project.
Playing Rabbi Rebecca, Sarah Sherman hits the mark with an absurd joke while instructing the Hebrew School students on the importance of preparing for their big days.
Sunny runs into trouble when her best friend, Lydia Rodriguez Katz (Samantha Lorraine), catches the eye of Andy. Dylan Hoffman, who plays Andy, infuses his role with the perfect dose of confidence.
Stacy does something extremely dangerous to catch Andy’s attention, but it leads to some embarrassing results. After Lydia commits an unforgivable act, Stacy declares: “You are so not invited to my bat mitzvah.”
Sadie Sandler delivers her role as Ronnie, Sunny’s older sister, with a fitting amount of sarcasm.
“If God loves me, why is he giving me so many zits?” one student asks the rabbi, while another asks how climate change can be real if God exists.
The scene featuring the rabbi singing “God is random” falls flat, and her oversharing about her yeast infection felt unnecessary. She poses the question, “What is Tikkun Olam?” to the students, drawing blank stares. While it’s comedic to see no one knowing the right response, a correct answer after the laughs would have been a nice touch.
Jewish actress Idina Menzel portrays Danny’s wife, Bree. Sandler’s real-life spouse, Jackie, takes on the role of Gabi Rodriguez Katz. Both seamlessly fit into their characters. Mateo (Dean Scott Vasquez) is a kind boy who, despite largely being overlooked by the girls, takes an interest in Stacy.
Fans of Jewish summer camp might recognize the song “Bim Bam.” A character quips about being in a Jewish rock group called “Exodus” since “Genesis,” the first book of the Torah, was already the name of a famed band that featured Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins.
Sunny lands in hot water for committing a sacrilegious act, leading the rabbi to consider canceling her bat mitzvah.
Certain elements of the film feel predictable. In addition, while Sandler should be praised for allowing his daughter to shine in the spotlight, a bit more of his comedic presence would have elevated the film.
Sadie Sandler shows a knack for comedic timing that suggests she might lean toward stand-up. Sunny carries the film well, balancing both its comedic and serious moments. The film reminds viewers that while a bar or bat mitzvah is a significant occasion, it doesn’t dictate one’s destiny.
Sunny insightfully remarks, “When you’re a kid, sometimes you think you have to be someone you’re not in order to fit in, but a woman knows it’s not about hiding who you are. It’s about being yourself and speaking the truth.”
Sammi Cohen, the film’s director, told Aish.com that she wanted “to give people a window into the fun, uplifting, happy moments of being a Jew.”
“If you look at film history, there are a lot of movies about the Jewish experience. Unfortunately, a lot of those really needed to be a dark time in our past,” she explained.
After starring roles in “Billy Madison,” “Happy Gilmore,” “The Wedding Singer,” and “The Waterboy” Adam Sandler solidified his reputation as one of Hollywood’s most reliable comedic actors. However, he’s also ventured into drama in 2022 with “Punch-Drunk Love.”
In 2019’s “Uncut Gems,” he took on the role of Howard Ratner, a Jewish man grappling with a gambling addiction. On the lighter side, he humorously portrayed a Mossad agent named Zohan, undercover as a hairdresser, in “Don’t Mess With The Zohan.”
Despite his vast success and wealth, Sandler is often spotted playing basketball in pickup games. He’s undoubtedly proud, likely ‘kvelling’ over his daughters’ stellar film debuts. The narrative underscores the value of inclusivity over exclusivity, highlighting the idea that loyalty among friends is more important than competition.
“You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah” offers a fresh and entertaining take on the challenges young people face, reminding viewers of the importance of staying true to oneself. The film suggests that while ritual achievements like reading from the Torah are significant, genuine adulthood is marked by personal growth and good character. Beyond its humor, the movie offers a poignant lesson about the essence of growing up.
Originally Published Aug 27, 2023 12:58PM EDT