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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Adrian Horton

You’re So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah review – Sandler family delivers sweet YA

Sunny Sandler in You Are So Not Invited To My Bat Mitzvah
Sunny Sandler in You Are So Not Invited To My Bat Mitzvah. Photograph: Courtesy of Netflix

I’m as keen as the next person to roll my eyes at so-called nepo babies, but You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah, a new Netflix teen comedy starring Adam Sandler and his two teenage daughters, makes the case for some upsides to maintaining the family business. Sadie Sandler as Ronnie, the sardonic older sister who can drive, and Sunny Sandler as Stacy Friedman, a 13-year-old struggling with her first crush, first BFF fight and one and only batmitzvah, are clearly actors in training. But the Sandlers’ affectionate rapport and palpable family chemistry lends the film, based on the book by Fiona Rosenbloom, a rare, sweet charm.

Credit as well to the director, Sammi Cohen, working with a screenplay from Alison Peck, for an evocative enough rendering of middle school, that very tricky window between the innocence of childhood and the full thicket of teenage angst. Stacy’s fantasy for her perfect batmitzvah is at once distinctly seventh grade, specific to a certain slice of Brooklyn Jewishness and broadly comic: hot pink and sparkly, very extra, a fete of social adulation featuring a cheesy DJ and punctuated by her longtime best friend Lydia (Samantha Lorraine, the standout of the youth cast) and her floppy-haired crush Andy (Dylan Hoffman). Stacy’s world of Hebrew school coming-of-age ceremonies is serious and silly, a parade of Torah recitations and Twizzler stations, and thus her delusions of batmitzvah grandeur (hired pop stars) are rendered both heartfelt and comic. “You’re always saying how my batmitzvah determines the rest of my life,” Stacy tells her parents (Sandler and his Uncut Gems co-star Idina Menzel), “and I think Dua Lipa will make my life perfect.”

Life, of course, goes far from perfect, in the low drama but high emotional stakes way of middle school, particularly when the worst of all fates occurs: Stacy and Lydia, attached at the hip and often “twinning” in dress, like the same boy (well-played by Hoffman as a clueless dud). Together, Lydia is the quiet and forgiving yin to Stacy’s vivacious and self-involved yang; at war, mostly perpetuated by Sunny’s believably stung Stacy, there are not one but two imperiled celebrations of womanhood and endearing questions of how to grow up, make up, and honor one’s Jewishness after the quirky rabbi (SNL’s Sarah Sherman) catches you sneaking a kiss by the Torah.

The hijinks and numerous zeitgeist-y references never quite make it into laugh-out-loud territory (the Sandler patriarch is wry but subdued here) instead landing somewhere in the range of consistent, easygoing sweetness. Cohen’s playful and tongue-in-cheek direction – twirling the camera on the batmitzvah dancefloor, mimicking the amateur videography of teenage girls, stopping the world every time mop-headed Adam enters the frame – recall such recent middle-school classics as the Hulu series Pen15 or Bo Burnham’s film Eighth Grade, though without the skin-crawling humor of the former nor the tender insight of the latter.

Still, the spot-on specifics of Stacy and Lydia’s Hebrew school milieu of popular kids, cliffhanger text invites and closed-mouth kisses richly evoke the all-consuming rollercoaster of being a 13-year-old girl (certainly not a woman, as a batmitzvah symbolizes, which makes “we’re all becoming adults this year” an effective recurring bit). The film comfortably occupies the internet-inflected world of this generation’s adolescence, from dreaming of becoming a TikTok influencer for a mitzvah project (takes too long, Sunny laments) to an anonymous gossip Instagram account called 7th grade rumorz (lol).

Though it has its moments of try-hard jokes, You’re So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah achieves what many a streaming service teen film aims for: humor without edginess, earnestness with just a little bite, culturally specific while still appealing to a mass audience (I’m not Jewish and followed along just fine). It may not reach the viewership heights of slightly older (in age and demographic) teen hits such as To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, but it’s both amiable and original enough to distinguish itself from the slush pile of youth-appealing Netflix content. Couple that with a moving finale on the supreme joys of best friendship, and that’s reason to celebrate.

  • You’re So Not Invited To My Bat Mitzvah is available on Netflix on 25 August

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