This might be Adam Sandler’s most Jewish movie ever — and that’s saying something.
From “Uncut Gems” to “The Meyerowitz Stories,” “Sandy Wexler” and “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan,” Sandler has long showcased Jewish characters, storylines and themes.
But none of those quite compare to “You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah,” his new Netflix comedy, directed by Sammi Cohen, which hits the streaming platform on Friday.
Adapted from a book by the same name, the movie is a sweet, very literal coming-of-age tale that doesn’t shy away from depicting Jewish rituals and embracing the poignant and quirky elements of Jewish culture, yet remains accessible to wider audiences.
Sandler, who stars in and produces the film, plays family patriarch Danny Friedman, dad to two teen girls, Stacy and Ronnie.
The longtime actor and funnyman has managed to both make a movie and spend time with his family, as his daughters Sunny and Sadie play the central roles. And while his film wife is played by Idina Menzel — reprising their “Uncut Gems” coupledom — Sandler’s real-life wife, Jackie, also appears on screen as the mother of Stacy’s best friend-turned-foe Lydia Rodriguez Katz (Samantha Lorraine).
The movie centers around Stacy’s upcoming bat mitzvah and opens with a stirring shot of her standing in a synagogue and chanting from her Torah portion. But it’s an uphill battle to get there, as the preteen has to overcome parental objections to her party demands (a performance by Dua Lipa on a yacht), ambivalence toward her “mitzvah project” and a betrayal by her best friend.
Judaism oozes from every single scene of “You Are So Not Invited” in both the overt jokes and moments and the ones that are more of a wink to Jewish audiences, as Stacy cries into a bowl of matzah ball soup, is pelted by candy while standing on the bimah (synagogue dais) or is pulled by her crush for a makeout session behind the curtain of the Torah ark.
“You know what the theme was [for my bar mitzvah]?” shouts Danny during one argument. “Being Jewish!”
Sandler’s brand of humor (“That’s why we fought the Nazis? So you could have a mojito bar?”) shines through often — including in his choice to bring back his frequent collaborator, Israeli actor Ido Mosseri, to play sleazy, in-demand bat mitzvah DJ Schmuley (“make some noise, mishpucha!”).
But the film is also an endearing homage to the struggles of an American Jewish teenager, bouncing between her parents’ expectations, the social pressures of school, the growing pains of adolescence and her realization that everything she thought was critical might turn out to be not that important after all.
In a blink-and-you-miss-it exchange laced with meaning — and a brief appearance by the legendary Jackie Hoffman — the film’s elders note how just a generation or two ago, bat mitzvah celebrations for young women were far from the norm.
At the same time, the movie pokes fun at the excesses often surrounding today’s festivities, from the extravagant parties to a reference to one classmate whose “mitzvah project is passing out sunscreen at Coachella.”
For every Friedman, Levy and Goldfarb in the movie, there’s a Chang-Cohen and Rodriguez-Katz, and alongside the sports-themed bar mitzvah there’s a glitzy “they mitzvah,” reflecting the way Judaism continues to play a role as the modern world evolves and family structures may change.
Even amid all the teenage angst, it’s refreshing to see Hebrew school depicted as a meaningful institution the kids enjoy attending, rather than the butt of jokes it has served as for decades. And the resounding onscreen rendition of “Shabbat shalom, hey!” will certainly echo for many, if not most, Jewish viewers.
SNL cast member Sarah Sherman steals every scene she’s in as Rabbi Rebecca, the mullet-sporting, advice-spouting, musical spiritual leader, with lines such as “and that’s the way the hamantaschen crumbles, sis.”
And watching Sunny practice chanting her Torah portion in her room along with a recording of the singsong chanting — without the need for any explanation for non-Jewish viewers — feels like meaningful onscreen representation for generations of Jews.
Sandler is a comedic powerhouse, even when playing a barely stylized version of himself as a suburban dad who cracks embarrassing jokes but cares deeply about his daughters and his family.
Adam Sandler may bring his name and star power to “You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah.” But Sunny Sandler undoubtedly steals the show as the relatable, angst-ridden, yet ever-evolving Stacey Friedman.
She may be the ultimate nepo baby, but I’m certain we’ll be seeing more of Sunny in the future. PJC