"Hey cool," thought I as I uncracked the wrapper on this When Do We Eat? DVD. "As a person with the last name of "Weinberg," surely I'll be able to appreciate the humor in a Jew-centric comedy that's got a few familiar faces and some very old schtick!" So in went the DVD and down went the lights.
Desperately shooting for that "My Big Fat Greek Wedding of the Jewish set" title, When Do We Eat? is a sluggish, arid, and entirely schizophrenic affair. Whether or not you "get" the Jewish humor, you'll be hard pressed to diagree when I assert that the humor found here is very basic, very broad, and (often) pretty darn bad.
Co-writers Nina Davidovich and Salvador Litvak don't even bother with "plot," but at least we get a premise: It's Seder time at the Stuckman household -- and get this: All of the family members are self-centered and perpetually-bickering bastards! Yep! We got the stuffy dad (Michael Lerner), the shrill wife (Lesley Anne Warren), the Holocaust-obsessed grandfather (Jack Klugman), the angry lesbian daughter (Meredith Scott Lynn), the sex therapist daughter (Shiri Appleby), the pothead son (Ben Feldman), the autistic teen, the one-eyed handyman, and the ultra-sexy cousin. Oh, and a ne'er-do-well son who shows up for Passover as a newly-ordained rabbi.
So the whole shrieking clan sit down in a backyard tent, intent on having some sort of civilized Passover Seder. Needless to say, it never happens; old secrets are thrown around the tent, drugs are taken, there's more than one slapstick-style brawl in which someone wraps their hands around the neck of someone else... And more: mild incest is practiced, some people learn that gayness is OK, and there's a bunch of LSD-style trippy-FX as one of the characters slips into an Ecstasy ride. It's all just a big, loud mess of a dinner party, and the characters start off so outlandishly obnoxious that it's completely impossible to feel any sympathy when this broad indie farce suddenly decides, about 70 minutes in, that it also wants to be warm and wise and wistful.
Meh, no thanks. The flick is shot like a one-camera stage play, the varying flavors of humor end up tasting like raw liver, and we're basically left with a wild-eyed group of actors who probably had a lot more fun shooting When Do We Eat? than they did watching it. The flick wants to be the Jewish version of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but comes off more like a Jewish version of Diary of a Mad Black Woman. And that's not exactly a compliment.
Video: It's a fairly solid widescreen transfer for such a niche-market indie flick. It pretty much looks like the big-screen sitcom it is.
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 or 2.0. Either track will serve you well, but be sure to turn the volume down once the Seder plates start flying. These Jews can yell!
Extras: Husband & wife filmmaking team of Litvak & Davidovich contribute a feature-length audio commentary in which they gush endlessly over their silly little movie when they're not pointing out very obvious things. You'll also find a pair of behind-the-scenes featurettes: Working Out the Fight Scene (4:58) covers one of the cartoonish brawls, while Ben and Max Imitate Michael and Jack (2:45) is more forgettable fluff involving a birthday cake.
Rounding out the disc are three deleted scenes, four actor auditions, and a 9-minute featurette called Visual Inspiration, which centers on "The Szyk Haggadah," apparently one of the filmmakers' inspirations. That and vaudeville.
I feel like I was invited to a Seder at a friend's house, only to discover that his entire family was loud, obnoxious, and insane. Also, they bolted the doors so I couldn't get out.
Rent It if you're Jewish, if only to feel a little better about your own family.