If you're trying to find a label for Sixty Six, you may have a harder time than it at first seems. The movie could easily be reduced to coming of age story in the mold of Simon Birch and Almost Famous. It could also be deemed an ethnic comedy in the vein of My Big Fat Greek Wedding and The Brothers McMullen.
While Sixty Six is both a coming of age story and an ethnic comedy, in this case, the ethnicity happens to be Jewish. That gives the film access to about a century’s worth of conventions, cultural signifiers, and stereotypes associated with everything from the Catskills to the cabaret. Sixty Six, however, appeals to none of those stereotypes, and discovers a Jewish world virtually unheard of in any generation of cinema.
Sixty Six focuses on London’s East End Jews, a sector of Jewish life virtually ignored in film, save for a handful of appearances as gangsters' bankers (in Guy Ritchie’s Snatch the one Jewish character in the London crime scene wasn’t even Jewish). The film regards the Bar Mitzvah of Bernie Rubens (Gregg Sulkin), a diminutive, ignored outcast whose dream of an elaborate Bar Mitzvah is ruined by being scheduled on the same day as the World Cup Final. We’re expected to know from the start that England was destined to make the final, and that no one will subsequently show up to his big day, but the film’s plot works just as easily for an American audience who’s barely heard of Pele. So Sixty Six simultaneously has every precedent set and no precedent set, and the betwixt and between side of the filmmaking is readily apparent, though probably more so to an American than a British audience.
In terms of the style of comedy, the manic humor of Sixty Six is more akin to Malcolm in the Middle than Mel Brooks. If it does play with Jewish neurosis, is does so from what ostensibly seems to be an outsider’s perspective. Bernie’s obsessive-compulsive father Manny (Eddy Marsan) is played as a tougher, blue collar neurotic far removed from the American Woody Allen image of the anxious schlemiel who can barely get his work done. The jokes range from the borderline scatological, the Cockney smartass, the brazen flashback, and even a touch of British dry wit, but except for moments when Manny gives a speech listing the various illness of family members, there’s nary a hint of Jewish black sarcasm to be found.