Review: Terrible Off-Broadway Adaptation ‘Jewtopia’ Starring Jennifer Love Hewitt

Review: Terrible Off-Broadway Adaptation 'Jewtopia' Starring Jennifer Love Hewitt

One gets flummoxed when forced to discuss something like “Jewtopia,” the
existence of which we’d all like to disavow. Based on the sort of off-Broadway
play best suited to people who hate theater, this embarrassing cocktail of racial
obliviousness nonetheless has amassed a considerable cast of established names
to sully themselves for the sake of gags that would be booed out of the writer’s
room for a Chuck Lorre sitcom. So it’s got that going for it: if you like moderately
big names regardless of the context, then “Jewtopia” merits a hearty
recommendation.

The thoroughly unlikable Ivan Sergei is Christian, a dim-witted son of an
army dad (Peter Stormare, inexplicably continuing to play American southerners)
who harbors a fetish for Jewish girls. His reasoning, that he wants the
theoretically-controlling shishka bride to control and adjust every part of his
life, is maybe the least offensive racial stereotype that peppers his stew. The
movie strains to make him a red state Catholic, but he wears his NASCAR jacket
the way a monkey would wear a top hat, at ease and ill-adjusted. Never mind
the fact that Sergei’s looks are already fairly ethnic, with his protruding
lips and strong eyebrows: odd that casting would be one of many balls this
production seeks to drop.

Christian (har har!) almost immediately falls in love with Allison, because
she’s Jewish and because she’s played by Jennifer Love Hewitt. But before this
courtship can begin, he has to convince the girl he believes is a complete JAP
(his words) that he himself is also Jewish. In addition to the most tired of clichés—this being a romantic comedy based on a lie—Christian also clearly hasn’t
planned out any of his lies, forcing him to improvise the dumbest garbage that
spills out of his head. Looks like it’s time for a little Jew Training!

Christian reunites with his childhood best friend Adam (Joel David Moore),
who proceeds to give him a crash course in fulfilling the worst and most
embarrassing Jewish stereotypes one can have. Moore looks actively embarrassed
to be acting out ways that Sergei’s loverboy must pretend to be a completely
obnoxious ass in order to win his girl’s heart; even more insulting, Allison
almost seems charmed when they go out to dinner and Christian (or “Avi”)
requests a million alterations on a dish, then rudely sends it back because Jewish
people “never eat what we order” according to Adam’s training. “Jewtopia,”
clearly building bridges between cultures.

Allison is not an imbecile, so when she grows suspicious, “Avi” befriends
her mother (Wendie Malick) and effectively worms his way so deep into Allison’s
heart that she’s ready to have sex. Christian realizes he’ll need to be circumcised
in order to be fully convincing, so he opts for surgery in order to preserve
one of the stupidest lies in cinematic history. Meanwhile, his surgery is
mirrored by the vaginoplasty sought by Adam’s bridezilla-to-be, Hannah
(Jamie-Lynn Sigler). Hannah’s hard-driving folks (Tom Arnold, Camryn Manheim)
are pushing this marriage hard, and Adam, similarly brow-beat by his folks (Jon
Lovitz
, Rita Wilson), is beginning to have second thoughts. If you’re unsure as to how much shtick results from this, then it might be just the right amount of
shtick for you.

Under the direction of Bryan Fogel, “Jewtopia” is hopelessly cheap and
stage-bound in a way that pushes the jokes to a higher and more intolerable
pitch. It’s supposed to be amusing when Christian’s father and brothers are in
warpaint in what’s supposed to be Afghanistan, plotting maneuvers against
made-up Muslim names while under a tent clearly located in Southern California.
It’s also supposed to be amusing when they emerge in someone’s bedroom an hour
later, teleported in full gear and ready to catch someone in an embarrassingly compromising
position. There’s a whole lot of “supposed to be amusing” here, but it’s buried
under disastrous jokes about marrying into a Jewish family, the kind of stuff
that feels like self-hatred rather than the self-mockery coming from so many Jewish
performers.

All the way, you keep waiting for Christian to get his just desserts, or
maybe to be pushed to the side and replaced by an actual interesting and
likable protagonist. About an hour in, if you haven’t walked over to the
nearest stove and shoved your head inside, the sinking feeling sets in that you’re
stuck with this unpleasant asshole. It’s equally off-putting when the racial
caricature extends not only to Christian’s Hispanic co-workers (“JOU are not
JEW!”), an aggressive Jamaican nurse and Adam’s Mongolian lover, which gives a
chance for Lovitz to casually mispronounce a potential in-laws name by ending
it with, “whatever.” Why “Jewtopia” would seem like a place worth visiting is a mystery. [F]  

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Comments

JOU

Perhaps the only thing more misguided than actually making "Jewtopia" is making a gassing joke in a "Jewtopia" review.

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