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June 28, 2022 11:16 am
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Movie About Bar Mitzvah Entertainer Is a Big Letdown

avatar by Alan Zeitlin

Opinion

A scene from “Cha Cha Real Smooth.” Photo: Apple TV+.

“Cha Cha Real Smooth” is more disappointing than a bad bar mitzvah.

Cooper Raiff wrote, directed, and starred in this film as Andrew. That’s impressive. He also includes an autistic character named Lola, which is important in a media world that too often ignores this community. He somehow got Apple TV+ to buy the film for $15 million.

David Blaine could learn a trick from Raiff. The film lacks authenticity in most of the scenes, and also somehow makes Jews disappear.

The movie features bar mitzvahs, but there is nothing that distinguishes them from any other party in the movie. The Jewish parents and children don’t say a word. At one event, Rabbi Steinberg is apparently upset because of a Nicki Minaj song whose title is a graphic description of a female body part. But do we see Rabbi Steinberg? Of course not. We do, however see Jewish wives who are desperate and hot for Andrew. None of the men in this film are good people, except of course, for Andrew, and they have the personalities of a dishrag.

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There’s not one Jewish song, not even two seconds of “Hava Nagila.” Not a single yarmulka is seen, other than possibly one on a man holding a cell phone while attending a bar mitzvah.

We hear the blessing over the wine in correct Hebrew, but of course we don’t see who is making the blessing. A challah? Wine? Of course not. It’s the attack of the invisible Jews!

Most lines are inexplicable.

“Sometimes I think I’m autistic,” Andrew tells Domino.

The he admits that’s not true. Domino doesn’t seem to care.

Andrew has sex with Macy, but she then becomes unattracted to him for almost no reason. A scene of him teaching a boy choreography is less believable than an alien teaching a kid to make potato kugel. He’s supposed to be a party starter, yet his dancing is awful, — though it doesn’t reach a comic level. Could he not even have learned a dance move?

The film is boring and predictable, but there are some positives. Leslie Mann, who plays Andrew’s mother, is fantastic in every scene, and we see Raiff act more credibly in moments they share. Israeli actress Odeya Rush is excellent as Maya, a romantic interest of Andrew. Vanessa Burghardt does a fine job as Lola, who has autism and wants to be accepted. She also has a bright future ahead.

Raiff clearly has some talent, and if he focuses on execution next time, he might be able to come up with something better. No one expects perfection when it comes to authenticity, but we can expect a modicum of effort. That didn’t happen here.

The author is a writer based in New York.

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