Open your heart and turn off your logic meter and you're going to enjoy “You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah.” You don’t have to be Jewish — or 13 years old — to appreciate this warmly wacky coming-of-age comedy set against the bar/bat/b’nai mitzvah circuit. But it wouldn’t hurt.
One part Adam Sandler home movie, another part fun and fizzy snapshot of a seventh-grader’s emotional roller coaster, this Toronto-shot film plays like a contemporary take on a 1980s-era John Hughes picture (“Thirteen Candles,” anyone?). But director Sammi Cohen, who helmed 2022’s queer-themed Hulu rom-com “Crush,” brings a more spontaneous, loose-limbed style to the proceedings that generally serves it well. It proves a sound match for Alison Peck’s snappy, incisive screenplay, based on the 2005 YA novel by Fiona Rosenbloom.
To get the nepo-facts out of the way, Adam Sandler’s daughter, Sunny (winning and a natural), stars as Stacy Friedman, a not-quite-popular middle-schooler preparing for her make-or-break bat mitzvah. Adam plays her kindly Hawaiian-shirted dad, Danny. The actor-producer’s other real-life daughter, Sadie, co-stars as Danny’s older child (and Stacy’s quirky but supportive big sister), Ronnie. Jackie (Mrs. Adam) Sandler, appears as Gabi, the divorce-bound mom of Stacy’s longtime bestie, Lydia (Samantha Lorraine). Yes, that’s a lot of Sandlers. But they all fit nicely and amusingly into their roles, as does Idina Menzel, who plays Danny’s take-charge wife, Bree. (As Adam’s co-star in “Uncut Gems,” she feels like an honorary Sandler.)
Plotwise, the movie tracks the anxious lead-up to Stacy’s bat mitzvah and the pubescent social swirl that surrounds it. At the story’s heart is the ill-timed deep freeze that occurs between Stacy and Lydia when they unexpectedly find themselves competing for Hebrew school heartthrob Andy Goldfarb (Dylan Hoffman).
Stacy may have crushed on him first, but the sensible, lower-key Lydia has attracted him and can’t help but savor her newfound popularity with the elusive in-crowd. The knives (mostly of the rubber variety) come out between the girls and put a crimp in their bat mitzvah planning, with Lydia’s first up.
As soon as we meet the vacuous, self-absorbed Andy, we know that girls as smart as Stacy and Lydia will eventually have his number — and not the kind for texting. But for the moment, he’s as cute and cool as it gets, particularly when compared with other boys in their circle such as the tense Aaron (Judd Goodstein) and the super-sweet, mop-haired Mateo (Dean Scott Vazquez).
Much as the BFFs would like to reconcile and support each other on their special days, a series of setbacks, especially an overly contrived bit involving Lydia’s bat-mitzvah entrance video, keep them at odds. Will they find a way back to each other before it’s too late? Two guesses, but be on the lookout for a clever climactic surprise.
All along, Stacy is more concerned with the party aspects of her big event than with its more serious rituals, including the chanting of her Torah portion and her mitzvah (good deed) project. And, as the film eye-poppingly shows, the shindig part of these events are often increasingly lavish affairs with their own set of over-the-top expectations. The movie doesn’t pass judgment, per se, on the state of today’s upscale bat mitzvahs. Still, as perhaps a mild commentary, the seemingly middle-class Friedmans try to rein in Stacy’s party where they can. (Will they cave on the Twizzlers bar?)
Fortunately, there’s Rabbi Rebecca (actor-comedian Sarah Sherman) to serve as the film’s true voice of ceremonial reason and to keep Stacy’s priorities on track. It’s a tough job, but Rebecca, an ebullient, wisecracking, fist-bumping whirling dervish, is more than up to the task and Sherman plays the offbeat role to the hilt. She’s a hoot (“That’s the way the hamantaschen crumbles!”) and deserves her own spinoff.
The large cast features many game supporting players including Dylan Dash and Millie Thorpe as Stacy and Lydia’s outcast pals; Zaara Kuttemperoor as Ronnie’s joined-at-the-hip, horror-movie-loving chum; Jackie Hoffman, Bunny Levine and Allison McKay as omnipresent party yentas; Luis Guzmán as Gabi’s cranky, soon-to-be-ex-husband; and Dan Bulla as the guitar-strumming Cantor Jerry.
As for every kid’s must-have tune-spinner DJ Schmuley (a grating Ido Mosseri), a little goes a long way, including his needless car-crash scenes. Also on the downside, Stacy’s parents are largely surface characters; it would help to know more about their lives apart from their daughters. A bit of judicious editing might have tightened the pacing as well.
But these are small quibbles for what is otherwise a delightful ride. And be sure to listen carefully as the film brims with hilarious throwaway lines and other if-you-know-you-know asides that zip by too fast.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.