Just when you thought Hollywood had covered all the holidays with insipid family get-together comedies, along comes When Do We Eat? It was just a matter of time before someone realized that the major Christian holidays had been exploited enough and it was time to insult other religions. Making last years The Family Stone’s hijinks seem inspired, this Passover-themed film is as insufferable as the people in it.
Director Salvador Litvak, possibly drawing from his own family, focuses on the world’s most dysfunctional seder. Of course calling the Stuckman family dysfunctional is like calling a severed arm a flesh wound. Filled with clichés, caricatures, family resentment, and accusations, the entire film is an excruciatingly unfunny look into a Jewish household.
Ira (Michael Lerner) resents that his oldest son, Ethan (Max Greenfield), won’t join him in his Christmas tree ornament-making business and has instead decided to become a Hasidic. His second oldest son Zeke (Ben Feldman) is a screw up who decided to help his father relax by giving him an antacid laced with ecstasy. Meanwhile, the put-upon mother Peggy (Lesley Ann Warren) is lusting after a bald Israeli stud Rafi (Mark Ivanir). Ethan lusts after his once-removed first cousin and eventually has sex with her while “Hava Nagila” plays on the soundtrack. The rest of the children include a sex therapist (Shiri Appleby), a bitter lesbian (Meredith Scott Lynn) and her black girlfriend (Cynda Williams) and an introverted semi-autistic son (Adam Lamberg). For some reason, Jack Klugman is here playing the holocaust-obsessed grandfather that withholds his love of his only surviving son, Ira.
The film ventures boldly from banal to painfully trite. After Ira takes the spiked Maalox he suddenly has delusions that he is Moses come to save his family and lead them on a spiritual journey, which of course leads to him discovering that all families have problems. Balancing emotion and humor is a tricky problem. More films have failed than succeed. Director Litvak co-wrote this with his wife Nina Davidovich. Together they have created an abysmal downward spiral of one cliché and poorly written joke so bad that you may never want to see another holiday film that doesn’t involve Jimmy Stewart and an angel.
Being an ensemble piece, the acting quality varies widely. Lerner and Warren do a fine job leading the family. Lerner’s best moments come when has bits of lucidity towards the end. The crux of the film however, is the strained relationship between Ethan and Ira. For the film to work you need to like both characters in some way. Max Greenfield plays Ethan in such an unlikable manner that you kind of wish Ira would just rip his clothes and make Ethan dead to him so the film would end faster. Ethan is a little snot who is either about to cry because he is misunderstood or making advances at his cousin.
Needless to say nothing could have saved When Do We Eat? Based around the most clichéd Jewish family ever put to celluloid, the Stuckmans make me long for the self-absorbed Stone family from last years equally rudimentary holiday film. It’s only a matter of time before someone discovers that other religions have family holidays and we’ll be treated to another predictable, dysfunctional family.