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Its title all too indicative of its broad, sophomoric humor, Jewtopia feels like a failed sitcom pilot that might have been created by Jackie Mason. This romantic comedy about a Gentile posing as a Jew to win the girl of his dreams traffics in the predictable stereotypes that felt dated decades ago. Based on a long-running hit stage play by director Bryan Fogel and Sam Wolfson, it’s unlikely to reap similar success with its cinematic incarnation.
The plot concerns the efforts of the aptly named Christian (Ivan Sergei) to woo the beautiful Alison Marks (Jennifer Love Hewitt) — the daughter of a rabbi, no less — by pretending to be Jewish, complete with the fake name of Avi Rosenberg, and claiming to be a doctor instead of a plumber. Coaching him in his elaborate pretense is his one Jewish friend, Adam Lipschitz (Joel David Moore), who has familial and romantic problems of his own.
Among Adam’s lessons is advising Christian to be sure to make a big fuss at a restaurant, to which he complies by making endless demands of the waiter and, when they’re finally met, saying, “Thanks, mensch.” Meanwhile, Adam has to cope with his increasingly hysterical fiance’s (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) anxieties, including her fear that her vagina isn’t pretty enough.
Trafficking in the usual cliches—Christian’s parents (Nicollette Sheridan and a woefully miscast Peter Stormare) love guns and NASCAR, while Adam’s embroidery-dealer father (Jon Lovitz) suffers from endless panic attacks — the film even goes so far as to render humor from Christian’s decision to make himself more physically suitable for his would-be partner.
“Next time, don’t trust your circumcision to an HMO,” a nurse cynically advises him.
Besides the fact that its comedic premise is as old as the hills, the film suffers from a plethora of cheap gags and stock characters guaranteed to offend almost everyone. And while Moore delivers an amusingly deadpan comic turn, Sergei lacks the charisma to make his deceitful character remotely sympathetic.
Somehow, director Fogel has managed to corral a gallery of well-known actors to participate in the proceedings. Besides the aforementioned performers, the formidable cast includes such comedy veterans as Tom Arnold, Wendie Malick, Rita Wilson and Everybody Loves Raymond creator Philip Rosenthal. It’s safe to say that few of them will want to include it in their resumes.
Opens Sept. 20 (Variance Films)
Production: Le Petit Canyon Productions
Cast: Ivan Sergei, Joel David Moore, Tom Arnold, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jon Lovitz, Wendie Malick, Nicollette Sheridan, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Peter Stormare, Rita Wilson
Director: Bryan Fogel
Screenwriters: Bryan Fogel, Sam Wolfson
Producers: Andy Fickman, Bryan Fogel, Pavlina Hatoupis, Dan Keston, Courtney Mizel, Tucker Tooley
Executive producers: Andy Fickman, Bryan Fogel, Joel David Moore, Sam Wolfson
Director of photography: Sandra Valde-Hansen
Editor: Wendy Smith
Production designer: Denise Hudson
Costume designer: Caroline B. Marx
Composer: Nathan Wang
Not rated, 89 min.
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