Bernie Rubens (Gregg Sulkin) is about to turn 13, and as far as he’s concerned, he’s going to have the biggest bar mitzvah ever—250 guests in a tony London hotel, Frankie Laine providing the entertainment, Kray brothers goons handling the security.
Unfortunately, the real world has some roadblocks in store. First, there’s the problem of father Manny’s (Eddie Marsan) failing greengrocer business, thanks to that new, modern supermarket that opened down the street. Then there’s the calendar: It seems Bernie’s landmark event falls on the same day as the 1966 World Cup Final, to be held at London’s Wembley Stadium. And even though no one thinks the local lads have a chance in hell of making it to the big game, there’s little doubt that if they do, the bar mitzvah will have more no-shows than attendees.
So Bernie begins to root against the British team. He tries chants, spells and witchcraft. And with every British victory, he settles into a bigger funk. When the big day comes, Bernie’s worst fears are realized: England is playing Germany in the Final (England won the game, 4-2, in overtime) and you could fit the people who actually show up to see Bernie enter manhood into a phone booth. But there is a surprise in store: Manny is determined to make the day extra-special, and does.
Sixty Six is as much about Bernie’s relationship with his family, especially his dour, uptight father, as it is about British football frenzy. In this respect, it tends to go a little overboard in the schmaltz arena, but that is not a major drawback. If anything, the film has a nice feel for Jewish life in Blighty, and has been particularly well-cast: Sulkin is properly pre-pubescent and goofy as Bernie, Marsan excellent as the father beset by numerous personal and business problems, and Helena Bonham Carter deliciously un-glam as the mother trying to keep it all together.
Director Paul Weiland has done a nice, fluid job of pacing the film, which goes more for chuckles than outright belly laughs. A small picture which knows its limitations, Sixty Six will please audiences looking for uplifting family dramas.