In general, independent comedies are hard to pull off. I’ll be honest; they tend to fail far more than they succeed. But when they do, it’s pure magic. The magic this time is titled Donny’s Bar Mitzvah, and I’m still laughing.
As a warning, there’s a lot of stories going on. You know you’re in for a bizarre ride when the off-camera voices describe the events to follow as “fakakta dick sauce.” It’s 1998, and tonight is the night of young Donny’s (Steele Stebbins) Bar Mitzvah, and all of his friends and family are there to celebrate.
From the start, we are plopped right into the center of the action. Donny’s family is posing for a photographer. If you’ve ever taken a family portrait, you know this is the moment when every petty dysfunctional issue comes out into the light. The vitriol is spewing, and no one is safe.
Once the bar mitzvah begins, our story splinters off in several directions. Donny and his buddies, Eric (Joshua Gonzalez) and Sam (Adrian Ciscato), head to the backroom to practice their dance, and the trio talks about Donny’s new girlfriend, known as Handjob Hannah (Isabelle Anaya). So, let’s just say that everyone in this tale is pretty horned up. The teens are obsessed with sex, and the adults want to have sex with anyone who’s not their spouse.
“…every petty dysfunctional issue comes out into the light. The vitriol is spewing, and no one is safe.”
I’ll do my best to give you a flavor of the dozen or so plot lines. Brother Bobby got his mother’s friend pregnant after a quickie in the coatroom and is faced with instant fatherhood. Bobby’s (John DeLuca) best friend David (Radek Lord) is “dating” his sister, but David is gay. Gerald (Jeremy Tardy) is the night’s emcee and interested in his attractive co-worker, Gigi (Aundrea Smith), who is actually Danny Trejo (Danny Trejo) in disguise and goes by Frank—a government agent chasing after an international criminal known as The Party Pooper.
Lastly, we have Mr. and Mrs. Wang (Eugene Kim and Judilin Bosita), who were invited to the bar mitzvah, having never been to one before and given a front seat to the debauchery. My three favorite gags involve the presentation of “My Favorite Grandparent,” a game of Never Have I Ever, and a young girl waking up her dozing mother. It’s just so wrong.
Donny’s Bar Mitzvah has a Zucker brothers’ Airplane! sensibility to it. The film is one crass joke after the other. It’s offensive, childish, incredibly low-brow, and I loved it more than you can ever imagine. Clearly, I’ve never grown up. Dick and sex jokes, drugs, drinking, and a moment of gratuitous nudity. The non-stop barrage of gross groaners come fast and furiously. I’m not a big fan of wacky humor because it’s hard to relate to comedic situations based on some kind of reality, but for some reason, it works here. I suppose if you beat me senseless with dick jokes, Stockholm syndrome will take over.
I have to give high praise to writer/director Jonathan Kaufman. Please make more movies! Donny’s Bar Mitzvah just works from start to finish. I’ve seen many indie comedies crash and burn, but Kaufman has found the secret sauce. It’s not just the silly, inane jokes, but the fast-paced editing and the way he breaks up each story is sheer brilliance. This is why I love comedies and why I’m so hard on comedies in general. A warning about handing me your indie comedies: if you want a good review, make me laugh. By that measure, Donny’s Bar Mitzvah gets a great review.
"…one crass joke after the other. It’s offensive, childish, incredibly low-brow, and I loved it…"