Skewering the crass materialism that’s found its way into aspects of religion , “Ricky Rosen’s Bar Mitzvah” provides some broadly comic moments before crumbling a bit under its over-the-top, almost surreal approach in the later going. Pic should nevertheless strike a minor chord with Jews thick-skinned enough to laugh along with it, though any rite of passage from a distribution standpoint should be narrowly limited to arthouses.
Mixing elements that seem to range from Philip Roth novels to “Brazil,” pic focuses on an introspective 12-year-old boy, Ricky (well played by Aaron Greenberg), who begins asking big questionsabout the ozone layer and the meaning of it all even as his country-club mother (Mindy Gadson) gets swept up in the social-climbing opportunities presented by throwing such a major party — the religious aspect of the ceremony having been lost on all involved. “You’ll be swimming in cash,” a friend tells Ricky when he expresses his reservations.
Enter Ricky’s Uncle Herman (Allen Joseph), a poor relation who tries to remind the boy about the true meaning of the pending event — a sort of Linus to Charlie Brown in the “Peanuts” special about the meaning of Christmas.
So far, so good, including even the mother’s outlandish health regimen and a bizarre, hilarious biology teacher who both perplexes and terrorizes the kids.
Unfortunately, in trying to make a point about excess, the ceremony/party becomes a viewing ordeal, down to a Vegas-style lounge act named Manny Shevitz (Bobby Chimera) and a “tally board” showing how much cash the kid has raked in.
It’s here that co-writer (with producer David White) and director Mark Burman veers off track, throwing in all kinds of odd moments involving strange relatives and friends that feel like padding and detract from the central premise. In these scenes the limited budget is a drawback, since the filmmakers have to dance around the absurd extravagance they’re trying to lampoon.
Some may also be offended by Ricky’s mom, but the story does compensate with other characters, and Gadson plays her as such a caricature it’s hard to take her too seriously.
Tech credits are relatively good, getting the most out of limited resources.