After watching this movie, I’ll never, ever think my family is the least bit dysfunctional. The Stuckmans are a large Jewish family gathering together for their annual Passover meal. Unfortunately, none of them really want to be there and all of them are warped in some way. For example, the dad runs a Christmas ornament company, the oldest son has recently and unconvincingly remade himself as a strict Hasidic Jew after failing as a high-powered business executive, and the oldest daughter is gay and shows up with her African-American girlfriend. But wait, there’s more: the youngest daughter is a very hands-on sex therapist, the younger son has a healthy drug habit, the mom might be having an affair with their construction worker, and the oldest son and his attractive female cousin are irresistibly drawn to each other in strict violation of his Hasidic beliefs as well as common decency. Stir all these elements together and it makes for a very interesting dinner engagement. Did I mention that young son slips the uptight dad a hidden hit of ecstasy to spice things up?
The movie is set almost entirely during the Seder dinner ceremony at the family home. There’s very brief but adequate back story for each character as they step away from their normal lives to join the family for dinner. Dad hates the ceremony and wants to get through all of it as fast as possible, which is fine by most of the family. However, he does go through enough of it that non-Jews get a healthy glimpse at the many rituals involved. We also get exposed to some trippy drug-induced visuals when Dad starts rolling, adding some interesting visual flair to the proceedings.
While the basic concept is to throw all of these freaks together and watch hilarity ensue, there’s enough interplay between all of these related foils that viewers get a strong sense of the love they ultimately feel for each other. Although they may profess to hate each other, it’s obvious that everything will work out just fine in the end.
The cast is far from A-list, but it is fairly deep and well-known for what appears to be a very low-budget affair. The biggest treat is the presence of Jack Klugman as the grandpa, although his voice has been reduced to such a breathy rasp that his limited lines are frequently unintelligible. Leslie Ann Warren is probably the next most recognizable face as the mom, followed by Shiri Appleby moving from her alien days on Roswell to this role as the very free-spirited sex therapist. Max Greenfield is a virtual unknown but gets the best role as the Hasidic son since he gets to play with the most conflict between his strict faith and his lust for his cousin and past wealthy life.
The film is very straightforward, moving along at a crisp pace without any melodrama or needless exposition. The wrap-up is fairly obvious, as even the most dysfunctional of families always find a way to work through their differences and stick together. It’s no main course, but it’s a delightful appetizer that will keep you satisfied until the next big comedy rolls around.
Written by Caballero Oscuro