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Sixty Six
UKScreen Rating:

Sixty Six – Review

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

With his thick-rimmed glasses and buck teeth, twelve year old Bernie Reuben (Sulkin) is every bit the school nebbish – even his disabled classmate gets picked before him for the football at school.
But football doesn’t interest him – he spends all his spare time in the garden shed, planning the most lavish barmitzvah imaginable – salubrious venue, gourmet kosher catering, a live performance from Frankie Vaughn – after all, every Jewish boy’s barmitzvah should be the time of his life.
As it turns out, football does turn out to play rather more of a role in his life than he’d hoped, when he realises that the day of his barmitzvah coincides with the World Cup Final. Ordinarily, of course, this wouldn’t matter, but this is 1966.
The crashing financial misfortunes of his well-meaning small-time grocer father Manny (Marsan) combine with the unexpected good fortunes of the England team, to make it a very real possibility that his big, bold and brash celebrations could be reduced to a the immediate family having tea and biscuits in the front room.
Bernie isn’t going to let this happen. Even voodoo isn’t a step too far in his efforts to ensure that England don’t progress, because the one thing that’s certain is that if England make it to the final, no-one in north London is going to be interested in a synagogue service and a free lunch.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

Coming from Working Title – the company that brought us everything from Four Weddings and Notting Hill to Bridget Jones and Billy Elliot – you know from the outset that your emotions will be masterfully manipulated. Even the biggest cynic will be hard pushed not to find this at least a little charming.
But it will appeal mostly to the Jewish community, who will best identify with the magnitude of what’s at stake. Most people, though, would be more likely to identify with a Welsh character’s query – “Is it just like a big birthday?” – finding it hard to get excited about a kid who’d rather his friends and family came to a party than his country romped to World Cup glory.
Eddie Marsan’s nebbish of a father is a little too underplayed, to the extent that you can’t really imagine what someone like Helena Bonham Carter would ever have seen in him. But true to life, as a strong and supportive mother, she is the emotional rock of the family and the emotional linchpin of the film.
Lively as Peter Serafinowicz is as Manny’s brother, it’s almost impossible to believe they came from the same womb. And in her second film of the week, Catherine Tate as his wife – while she seems to be enjoying herself – doesn’t feel like any of the Jewish aunties I had growing up.
The story is billed as a “true…ish” story…but there’s very little in it that feels like any of the experiences or people I knew growing up. The film relies a little too much on stereo-types – among them grotesques, like the blind rabbi with the incontinent guide dog.
Perhaps the biggest problem for me is the fact that all the barmitzvahs I’ve known have featured a synagogue service on a Saturday morning, with the big party on the Sunday evening – so even if there was a big football match scheduled, it wouldn’t clash with both bits – at worst, the timetabling problem would write off only half of the celebrations.
The film is quaint but slight, charming but inconsequential, and the plot is awfully convenient, but in true Working Title style, you’ll leave the cinema with your heart a little warmer than it was when you went in.

opens nationwide 3rd November 2006

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