On April 26th, 2012, the opening night of the Newport Beach Film Festival saw the world premiere of Jewtopia. Based on one of the longest running off-Broadway plays, Jewtopia is the film adaptation, which revolves around two friends dealing with the prospect of finding love with Jewish women. Unfortunately, while billed as a “comedy”, I can’t recall ever even smiling during this terrible feature. Jewtopia turned out to be one of the worst films I have seen in recent time, managing to leave me so unsettled that I could not honestly write up a review immediately after I saw it, choosing to let my emotions simmer down instead. Now, even after having calmed down, I still have nothing very positive to say. The cast and crew may have had a good time, but the bad jokes, bad story, poorly established comedic style, among other factors, all proved to sum up to a bad time at the movies for me.
Jewtopia follows the stories of Chris (Ivan Sergei) and Adam (Joel David Moore). The two were best friends from childhood, though Chris was a gentile with redneck parents (played by Peter Stormare and Nicollette Sheridan), while Adam was Jewish (his very Jewish parents are played by Jon Lovitz and Rita Wilson). This should not be an issue, but it becomes one, as we see that Adam has heavy anxiety issues, while Chris is used to roughhousing with his brothers and his father does not really enjoy Adam being one of Chris’ friends. As time passes, the two sort of drift apart.
In their adulthood, Adam has somehow landed a trophy fiancé, Hannah Daniels (Jamie-Lynn Sigler), who is Jewish and quite wealthy due to her and her parent’s (played by Tom Arnold and Camryn Manheim) work as successful gynecologists. Adam has stuck with the family business of professional embroidery and is bossed around constantly by his bride to be. Meanwhile, Chris has his own plumbing business, but is in search of love in the form of a Jewish woman. You see, Chris had a Jewish girlfriend in college, who dumped him, but since Chris loved having all his decisions made by her, he hopes to find someone that can fill that same role. Naturally, after meeting the perfect Jewish woman, Alison Marks (Jennifer Love Hewitt), Chris decides to pretend to be a Jewish doctor and goes to seek advice from Adam for how to properly act like a Jew. And the “hilarity” ensues.
I have not been masking my opinions about this film already, but I will say it again – I really disliked this movie. I thought it was terrible. Everything about how this story unfolded was pathetic. None of the characters are particularly strong or likable. The jokes are never clever and have no subtlety to them at all, working instead as bad pandering that makes constant use of the lowest common denominator type of humor. Whether it is an attempt to make various Jewish references seem funny or just lay deep in various raunchy bits of humor, the film never rises above any level that hints at any sort of sneaky intelligence lurking underneath. Everything just falls flat instead, and left me bored and displeased with having to slump in my seat and hope it would end sooner rather than later.
I won’t say that this movie is offensive. Jewtopia is way too stupid to be offensive or have me care about the various Jewish stereotypes that are portrayed with an over-the-top sense of bad taste. And of course, given that the filmmakers are Jewish (as am I), I know that this film was trying to essentially dare people to laugh at how ridiculous the stereotypes being delved into on screen are. With that said, the film still failed in creating any sort of effective comedy out of the types of jokes they were going for. None of the same old jokes are ever given any sort of fresh life; no, instead we get funny accents, jokes about acting neurotic for no apparent reason, fun with circumcision humor, and various uses of old Yiddish terms to emphasize all of this “amusement”. If Jewtopia was attempting to be some sort of satire, knowing how bad these jokes were and playing off of that factor, then the film definitely failed in every way possible.
There is not too much to say about the actors, other than the fact that few of them escape without embarrassing themselves too much. Ivan Sergei basically serves as a substitute for a Brendan Fraser-type character, accept with no real charisma and the status of playing a pretty terrible person, who learns practically nothing over the course of the film and does not deserve his happy ending. Joel David Moore reaches a point where he must hump a plastic dolphin for…I don’t know why. For whatever reason, Peter Stormare is given the chance to flex his chops by donning a southern accent, which goes over terribly, while Tom Arnold and Jon Lovitz do their best at hanging around the film long enough to cash their paychecks. Jamie Lynn-Sigler gets the chance to put her comedic timing to work; as she deals with being overly concerned about how pretty her vagina is (I can’t make this stuff up). And Jennifer Love Hewitt apparently plays an idiot who can’t figure out what’s going on with her silly “Jewish” boyfriend.
Anyone that really loves movies like Epic Movie or Meet the Spartans will probably feel right at home with Jewtopia and for those that do have fun with those kinds of movies, let alone this movie, I can assure you that I have no problem with that. It is not a matter of me being better than the humor that is presented here; I just don’t find it entertaining at all. The film combines a slew of ridiculous raunchy humor, cracks at Jews vs. Gentiles, and various other jokes that I could see coming a mile away, with hopes that it would go another direction, but doesn’t and just left me feeling more numbness than anything really. I have so far seen other films at the Newport Beach Film Festival that I enjoyed and I am sure the play must be something that is far more enjoyable, but Jewtopia gave me nothing to enjoy. A great, big dud.
Click on the poster to visit the Newport Beach Film Festival website, and be sure to check back to Why So Blu throughout the week for more of my coverage of the festival!