In Keeping Up With the Steins, Jeremy Piven, so scaldingly funny as a cutthroat Los Angeles talent agent on Entourage, stretches himself to play…a cutthroat Los Angeles talent agent. The difference is that here he isn’t witty or authentic or much of anything else. The script doesn’t give him one good line; he’s just a beleaguered sitcom wuss trying to plan a bar mitzvah for his son that will outdo the one thrown by his neighbors. When people put forth the theory that movies now suck and television rules, they might be talking about movies like Keeping Up With the Steins, a comedy that makes you long for the high-voltage freedom of HBO. The film takes all the flavor out of a yummy satirical idea: status envy among assimilated Jews.
With ethnic gags that are about as fresh as three-day-old bagels, Keeping Up With the Steins may revel in some sagging stereotypes, but make no mistake: It’s very much a product of the era of Sarah Silverman, Heeb magazine, and Curb Your Enthusiasm — comedy with a self-abasing Jewish tilt that, in its ”insider” outsiderness, offers itself as the new mainstream. The movie opens with a bar mitzvah that’s spectacular in its posh vulgarity. On a cruise ship, a boy stands on a mock-up of the Titanic and shouts ”I am the king of the Torah!” as a hip-hop entertainer raps, ”Hava nagila beer, wine, tequila!” (Yes, you read that right.) At this point, the movie is at least attempting to be funny, but then Garry Marshall, in a scraggly ponytail and a hippie version of a prayer shawl, shows up as Piven’s estranged father. Marshall takes over the movie (no mystery: his son, Scott, directed it), and Keeping Up With the Steins turns into a recipe to forget: chopped liver with ”heart.”