By: Trevor Chartrand
Irreverent, crude, absurd and insane, Donny’s Bar Mitzvah is a bizarrely entertaining comedy that somehow manages to function coherently – while at the same time doing everything wrong. The film is certainly funny, bordering on hilarious, but incredibly immature. Keep the kids out of the room for this one, folks.
From the mind of writer/director Jonny Comebacks, Donny’s Bar Mitzvah is a fairly self-explanatory film that takes a very loose premise and fills it to the brim with a non-stop series of raunchy jokes. All hell breaks loose at poor Donny’s Bar Miztvah party. While Donny (Steele Stebbins) practices for his big dance and hopes to win over his crush, his alcoholic parents and adult family members get into all kinds of trouble. His older brother knocks a woman up (and, go figure, she gives birth a few hours later), his dad comes out as gay, and an undercover secret agent infiltrates the party searching for Waldo (yes, of Where’s Waldo fame – that Waldo).
Taking place in the late 90s, this movie is presented in a glorious 4:3 aspect ratio, with the idea that we’re watching home video found footage on a VHS tape. The film exploits this idea to the max, complete with goofy scene transitions and homemade editing flourishes all reminiscent of the time.
This film plays out essentially like a series of comedy sketches, with each scene having its own self-contained jokes. Many of these scenes seem superfluous at first but, surprisingly, almost every seemingly extraneous subplot has a coherent resolution and comes to a satisfying narrative conclusion. From a writing perspective, that’s no easy feat: Comebacks has strung together a seemingly random line-up of chaotic, fast-paced quips that somehow ends up weaving together to create a complete story with decent character arcs.
The ensemble cast here are all spectacular, with many performers playing up their characters with very ‘big’ acting, so to speak. Clichés and stereotypes are exploited as the butt of many jokes, like when the alcoholic father smashes his drinking glass in every scene, to the point of nuclear absurdity. Most importantly, it’s clear the actors are all having a lot of fun hamming it up for their roles, lending very much to the bizarre tone of the film.
Overall, Donny’s Bar Mitzvah is a relentless non-stop comedy, but it is certainly not for the faint of heart. The film has staying power as a potential cult classic, especially thanks to its timeless retro style and look. It’s a late night comedy in every sense of the word, and worth checking out.
On a more personal note, I was surprised to find some of the juvenile jokes in the film to be bordering on poor taste – and I suspect this movie has burdened me with the discovery that my own sense of humor has evidently evolved. Despite enjoying the film, some of the more irreverent bits did have me cringing. I don’t know whether to be proud of my own ‘maturity’ (if we can call it that), or to lament the loss of a juvenile sense of humour. I’m certain 13-year-old me would have ate these jokes up and come back for many repeat viewings. All this is to say that I can see how and why this movie is incredibly funny, but regretfully, that the laughs just weren’t coming to me this time ‘round. Here’s hoping, dear readers, you haven’t reached that point yet. Laugh loud, and enjoy Donny’s Bar Mitzvah.
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Trevor Chartrand: @OhHaiTrebor