‘You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah’: Sandler Family Deliver a Cheerful Celebration of Tradition and Young Anxiety
The beginning of Netflix’s “You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah” does a colorful rundown of the various ways different communities celebrate a child’s entrance into maturity. It’s a good set-up for the sweet charm of this movie, which is that universal anxiety that will always be a part of middle school age. As the title suggests, our focus will be on someone’s bat mitzvah, but rarely do our parties go as we wish when we’re kids. Crushes start getting in the way of friendships and forget about the age you’re reaching, it’s all about how the celebration will look. While it moves and dances like many Netflix teen movies, this one also has the endearing vibe of functioning like a love letter from Adam Sandler to his family. His daughters are the stars here, playing their roles with unsurprising ease.
Sunny Sandler plays Stacy Friedman, the suburban daughter of Danny (Adam Sandler) and Bree (Idina Menzel) and sister to the slightly older Ronnie (Sadie Sandler). It is the days of seventh grade and life is revolving around all the endless bat mitzvahs being planned for friends and classmates. Her social life is centered on the Jewish school Sunny attends. She would be lost without best friend Lydia (Samantha Lorraine). Together they plan everything, go everywhere together and prepare for a future where they will both have cute boyfriends and be neighbors in Tribeca (“at Taylor Swift’s building!”). Stacy’s current big crush is Andy Goldfarb (Dylan Hoffman), a soccer player who speaks like a Venice beach bum. A shocker of shockers hits when at a “boy-girl party,” Sunny catches Lydia kissing Andy! Can the friendship survive and can any of the bat mitzvahs go as planned?
Not surprisingly, like many of these movies, “You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah” is based on a novel. Director Sammi Cohen takes Fiona Rosenbloom’s source material and makes an enjoyable time where the environment and surrounding characters make the key storyline more fun. Stacy’s emotional trials and tribulations are funny vehicles to also nod at Jewish life in general. A dad like Danny, dressed as if Adam Sandler simply walked on set from home, bemoans how Stacy is focusing more on “twinning” with Lydia (as in wearing the same high heels, etc.) than focusing on preparing for the bat mitzvah’s Torah reading or a mitzvah (charity) project. In the latter, Stacy volunteers at an assisted living facility to get closer to Andy. Gotta do what you gotta do. At school, Rabbi Rebecca (Sarah Sherman of “Saturday Night Live”), who spends her office hours on a treadmill, tries her best to answer tricky questions about God and unfairness, resulting in a catchy little song, “God Is Random.”
What sets off the sudden rupture in Stacy and Lydia’s friendship is all too believably simple. All it takes is for Stacy to make one of those reckless decisions to impress her crush, like diving off a cliff into a river with impressive but then humiliating results. Later, Lydia kisses Andy and everything tumbles down. In seventh-grade crushes feel like they will be forever, so how dare Lydia commit such a shocking act of betrayal (“You’re like David and Bathsheba!”)? “You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah” is not supposed to be as vicious as “Mean Girls” or the just-released “Bottoms,” so it becomes more about how the friends will get back together with feel-good developments and tear-jerker moments. Stacy is also frustrated because Danny and Bree don’t want to spend lavishly on her party, which might pale in comparison to classmates who get DJ Shmuley and big dance halls.
Sandler and family make the material feel very lively. He’s settled perfectly now into the image of the scruffy dad with baggy clothing, who is also the nice parent while Idina Menzel plays the worrying mom terrified of Stacy wearing dresses that might offend God. The Sandler sisters, Sunny and Ronnie, appear to be having a great time, with spirited performances that probably felt like simply enacting day-to-day life in playing characters their age. Sunny in particular has a good presence for this sort of role. As far as teen movies go, this one lightheartedly engages with its exploration of how adolescent concerns trump important cultural norms. Stacy knows learning about Judaism is important, but her best friend kissed the love of her life. It doesn’t get more momentous than that in suburban cafeterias. How it will all end is predictable. What counts is that the party is fun to attend.
“You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah” begins streaming Aug. 25 on Netflix.