Got an Invite to the Sandler Bat Mitzvah?

Sep 4, 2023 | Op-Eds, Virtual Jerusalem

Bring a Barf Bag.

Adam Sandler’s “You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah” promises a comedic glimpse into a Jewish girl’s coming of age angst in suburbia. It delivers is a cringe-fest laughing not with Jews, but at them, making a mockery of Judaism as practiced in the fleshpots of America.

Sandler’s Netflix spectacle comes off as an underperformer even in the very uneven litany of Happy Madison productions, from the heartwarming “50 First Dates” to the flawed “Uncut Gems.” One might have expected a nuanced portrayal of Jewish American coming of age rather than crude Semitic slapstick, an unkosher pig smeared in lipstick. You would be disappointed.

Charitably, it’s a vehicle for Sandler daughters, Sunny and Sadie, playing Stacy-aka-Sima and Ronnie in lead and supporting roles. Fine, which Jewish parent doesn’t push their kids’ careers?  But does Daddy Adam really need to show up in a rainbow bathrobe at the cinema to watch and humiliate his 13-year-old: “I’m going to get a blanket from the trunk of the car,” he tells her, in front of her friends,” so we can snuggle like we used to.” Ewww. He puts his arm around her, draping his fingers over her cleavage. Where exactly is he going with that? Pulling a Biden?

The teen sex references are unending. The twice-repeated scene of Stacey’s best friend Lydia straddling a sleeping sibling and trying to queef, called a “frontal fart” from her “vajayjay,” is revolting, as are the scenes where Lydia straps on and bounces around in balloon breasts. Stacey spreads a rumor about black hairs on her best friend’s nipple.

And do we really need to hear repeated reports of how goy-faced Andy Goldfarb, always sporting a Star of David, touched Lydia’s “underboob”? Not to mention the grotesque grandmas from the senior home lamenting their nostalgia for such breast fondling?

Audiences are served a steady stream of bathroom jokes and anti-Jewish tropes exploiting puberty and messy menstruation. Stacey: “Daaad. I got my first period seven months ago. Dad: “That’s a long period.” Dad: “What kind of flow do you have? Light? Heavy? Chunky? Sorry, I’m also buying peanut butter.” Stacey’s picked up lines: “Hey, Andy, I really like your yarmulke.” “Hey, Andy, of course I’d love to share a matzo ball soup with you.” “

Yeah, the whole mishmash is a putrid matzoh ball soup, without the balls to take on real issues.

Then there’s butchy Rabbi Rebecca, desperate to be “cool” but more comfortable walking in trainers on her treadmill than teaching anything relevant to the Jewish youth in her charge: “Let’s pick up with our old buddy [King] David … who was about to get his groove on with the foxy Bathsheva even though she was married to someone else. What a snake David is!”

She shames and flirts with the kippah-wearing Aaron: “Are you a snake, Aaron? …Did you cheat on your wife? Course not… You’re sweating, Aaron. You’re awesome, Aaron… Look at that arm hair and mustache coming in. Baruch Hashem, Aaron. Let’s go!” Then she embraces and fist-bumps him. In real life, she’d be booted for harassing a minor. In another scene, she embraces Aaron again: “Baruch Hashem.” He responds with the proper gendered salutation: “Yes, Sir.”

It’s not off-beat. It’s not cute. It’s just stupid. it’s insulting. The fact that the current Jewish-American educational and cultural scene is rife with such ridiculousness does not excuse making a mockery of Jewish values and history – “did we fight the Nazis to have a mojito bar?” –  unless that is his unintentional goal: making an ass of himself, his family, and his religion.

Most offensive is the scene where Stacey and Andy excuse themselves from Rabbi Rebecca’s class to make out (the Jewish school’s make-out closet is occupied) behind the curtains of the aron kodesh where the Torah is kept. “Do you see a toilet?” Rebecca asks them after she pulls back the curtain mid-smooch. She’s trying to be ironic.

But that is how Torah and Jewish tradition are treated here. Like a toilet for Sandler to dump his tired waste-worthy jokes. Would a Jewish director allow other religions’ sanctities to be treated with such casual disregard?  Canoodling under Christ on the cross? Frenching kissing under the Koran? He wouldn’t dare. He wouldn’t want to end up like Salman Rushdie. Smoked.

The film’s mockery of Judaism and Jews insults all those who struggle to find meaning in their Jewish identities and find beauty in their heritage. The fact that Stacey ends up choosing Mateo, a non-Jewish Latino exchange student, for her first boyfriend is a fitting fate.

Sandler’s “Hanukkah Song” and “Eight Crazy Nights” were beloved by some for their assertion of Jewish difference in a dominant Christian culture. But any positive pro-Jewish spin here is overwhelmed by the gross excess and glorification of money and teenage sex. Who would want to be part of such a disgusting and self-deprecating cult of money worshipping self-indulgence?

When challenged to answer profound inquiries about evil and injustice from the mouths of her students – “If God exists, why is there climate change?” –her response, accompanied by shaking maracas, is to ask, in sing-song, “why, if God is real” is there war and poverty and why does she have 11-year yeast infection? Then she answers her own question, launching into a ditty called “God is Random,” getting all her [their?] students to boisterously parrot this refrain.

The Torah portion Stacey reads, Ki-Tisa, is about, she tells Rabbi Rebecca, “stuff about the Golden Calf”? That’s exactly what’s portrayed here. Sandler’s muddled and monstrous mockery of Judaism, from its supposed spiritual leaders to its rites, suggests that American Jews should just not just dissolve into the American melting pot. Jewish values go down the tubes with Stacey’s jumbo tampons. One wonders if some knowing scriptwriter inserted this as irony.

While Sandler’s track record has seen highs and lows, this latest installment ranks – and rank is the word — as his most pathetic. Even for the non-Orthodox, this flop is not a celebration of Jewish identity but a parody. It’s a self-indulgent self-indictment of Hollywood-style Judaism.

Spoiler alert, for your well-being: some scenes are hard to unsee, as when Stacey plunges off the cliff ledge and dislodges her bloody pad, turning the lake into what the kids call a “Red Sea.”

That’s just the first cringe. Even if you laugh, you’ll feel guilty about it later. Like the joke the cantor tells students about forming a Jewish band as a kid. “We called it Exodus.” Wait for it: “Because Genesis was already taken.” Again and again, we hear the characters a Bar or Bat-Mitzvah makes you a grown-up. This juvenile Jewy exploitation film will just make you groan.

Life is short. Give this a pass. The Sandler “Bat Mitzvah” is an invitation you’ll regret accepting. And if you’ve made the mistake of starting, well, excuse yourself and make an Exodus.


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