When you look at Adam Sandler’s filmography, you might either think outrageous comedy or some seriously impressive dramatic turns in movies like Punch Drunk Love, Uncut Gems and Hustle. But for his latest Netflix flick, he is taking a back seat on camera by basically playing the beleaguered dad to his real-life daughters Sadie and Sunny Sandler, all in fictionalized roles but nevertheless all still in the family. Sandler’s real influence in You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah is as a producer, and in this instance he has brought forward the right creative elements to make this adaptation of Fiona Rosenbloom’s YA book a complete delight.
It doesn’t break any rules of the teen genre, of the kind of coming-of-age movie that the late great John Hughes pioneered so successfully in the 1980s and ’90s, but it works in a modernized way that makes it stand out for a new generation that will relate to it, as well as a kind of nostalgic piece for their parents.
Director Sammi Cohen notes that her first film, last year’s Crush was a movie for young gay people and wanted to do this one for young Jews. In that the emerging filmmaker and screenwriter Alison Peck have succeeded admirably. This comedy is not only the rare teen movie that immerses itself in the Jewish religion, but it does so through the wide-eyed world of 13-year-old girls in the same way that worked so well earlier this year in a similar coming-of-age story, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.
Stacy Friedman (Sunny Sandler) and Lydia (Samantha Lorraine) are BFFs, an unbreakable pair since early childhood and now both looking forward to their dream day, their Bat Mitzvah. As we see their tight friendship unfold, we also watch all the preparation, angst and excitement that goes along with this time in the life of a young Jewish girl, one that also comes along with first kisses and crushes. Stacy confesses she has a huge one on the rather vapid Andy Goldfarb (a droll Dylan Hoffman), who seems to be a magnet for the other girls in her class as well as herself. But an unfortunate incident unintentionally revealing the period she is going through turns so embarrassing that she swears off Andy and boys — but that is only for the moment. Trouble brews when she sees none other than Lydia kissing Andy at a party, and that begins the unstoppable breaking point for the relationship of the two BFFs. Her revenge gets a little darker from there — it involves the Bat Mitzvah film she had promised to make for Lydia — and totally out of control at both ceremonies for Stacy and Lydia.
The John Hughes influence can be felt throughout, even with a small homage on a visit to a movie theater where the main attraction turns out to be a Hughes Festival of his movies. This film works as well it does because it is so grounded in the realities of this particular teen world and the TikTok generation. It unquestionably is a movie of its time but one with a tender foot in the past where kids didn’t text and tweet their deepest thoughts. Some things never change in terms of human behavior, jealousy and emotions.
Give huge credit to Sunny Sandler for being the real deal, a hugely talented young performer who hits all the right notes and is a natural in front of the camera. This is no cheap trick of nepotism. It is hard to imagine a better choice for the role of Stacy, a girl going through big, life-changing moments and trying to hang on to what really ultimately matters. In the other major teen role as her bestie, Lorraine could not be better. Both make it look like they really have been friends their whole lives. Excellent casting here.
Adam Sandler basically plays himself in a charming way, Hawaiian shirt and basketball shorts included. He is the ideal dad, a little befuddled by bringing up teenage girls but up for the task even as he complains a bit. Idina Menzel is ideally cast as his wife (she was in Uncut Gems) and brings real warmth to the situation. Sandler’s actual wife Jackie joins the family affair as Lydia’s mother and does well in her brief screen time. Older sister Sadie Sandler also has her moments as, well, the older sister to Sunny, and she too seems quite comfortable bringing it all to the screen. Sarah Sherman (SNL) is a kind of off-the-wall but endearing rabbi leading the 13-year-olds through this special time of Jewish life. Dan Bulla as the guitar-playing cantor gets a few laughs as does veteran Luis Guzman as Lydia’s grumpy father. Ido Mosseri plays the Bat Mitzvah DJ as exactly what that guy might be like: loud and over the top.
I think that if John Hughes were alive, he might be smiling after seeing You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah. So will you. Producers in addition to Adam Sandler are Tim Herlihy, Leslie Morgenstein and Elysa Koplovitz Dutton. Netflix begins streaming the pic August 25.
Title: You Are So Not Invited to My Bat MitzvahDistributor: NetflixRelease Date: August 25, 2023 (streaming)Director: Sammi CohenScreenwriter: Alison PeckCast: Idina Menzel, Sunny Sandler, Sadie Sandler, Adam Sandler, Jackie Sandler, Ido Mosseri, Luis Guzman, Sarah Sherman, Dan Bulla, Dylan Hoffman, Samantha LorraineRating: PG-13Running time: 1 hr, 43 mins