Film Review: Jewtopia

Oy! <i>Jewtopia </i>may sound like utopia, but watching it will give you a vision of hell.

You don’t have to be Jewish to be offended by Jewtopia, a movie based on an apparently successful play. The romantic situation comedy of a Gentile man pretending to be Jewish in order to win over a Jewish girl is hardly a novel idea—and this version makes 1922’s Abie’s Irish Rose seem fresh and insightful.

In the screenplay by Bryan Fogel and Sam Wolfson, Christian (Ivan Sergei), after many years, feels ready to get over being dumped by his Jewish college sweetheart when he meets another young Jewish woman, Alison (Jennifer Love Hewitt). But Christian doesn’t want to take the chance of being dumped again for not being Jewish, so he asks his childhood friend, Adam (Joel David Moore), to help him “become” Jewish. Not only that, but Christian, who is a plumber, pretends to be a well-to-do doctor. Meanwhile, Adam must contend with his demanding fiancée, Hanna (Jamie-Lynn Sigler), and both men suffer from the personal and professional expectations of their dysfunctional families. Ultimately, it is matter of when, not if, Alison discovers the truth and accepts Christian for who he is (Christian, get it?)—but hopefully you won’t be watching Jewtopia by that point.

Directed and produced by Fogel, here is a film that trades in both ethnic stereotypes and bathroom humor without ever being remotely funny. While it is possible to make such a movie with laughs—note some of the works by the Farrelly Brothers, who turn stereotypes on their head—Jewtopia is consistently mirthless and unpleasant (though credit Fogel and company for paying tribute by hiring Farrelly Brothers regular Lin Shaye for a small role).

The rest of the cast is a mix of the intractable (Love Hewitt, Tom Arnold) and the lightly likeable (Sergei, Wendie Malick), but no one emerges unscathed from the motherload of vagina and penis jokes (the climactic one involving an actual circumcision). Some (like Malick and Camryn Manheim) should actually be ashamed of themselves since they have shown their abilities at comedy elsewhere. But the puerile script is the main problem, and no one in the cast or crew could have fixed that.

If Jewtopia’s premise sounds at all appealing, skip it and rent an episode of “Bridget Loves Bernie” instead.