Adam Sandler long ago perfected the art of working with his friends (from David Spade and Rob Schneider to Allen Covert and Nick Swardson, Sandler found his people when he was a rising star, and he’s stuck with him). So what’s next? Now, he’s taking that same approach of working with people he already knows and loves to generate a platform, through his Happy Madison production shingle and streaming giant Netflix, for his own daughters Sunny and Sadie Sandler to shine.
Is it still nepotism if it’s this blatant? Probably — but in an added twist, Sandler’s choice to bolster his daughters comes with a pleasant surprise: it works, and well.
Directed by Sammi Cohen, this new entry in the Sandler-family-business model, “You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah” is an endearing take on the coming-of-age tween film, with a heavy dose of religion — in the best way. Sunny Sandler stars as Stacy, a sweet 13-year-old who dreams of a blow-out bash bat mitzvah, one heavy on the New York City influences and LMFAO bangers, very light on the Torah.
She’s been planning her big day with the help of long-time best friend Lydia (Samantha Lorraine) and now all she has to do is convince her parents, played by Adam Sandler himself and his “Uncut Gems” co-star Idina Menzel, to cough up the cash for the party of the century.
But things take a classically middle-school-drama turn when Lydia starts getting noticed by the popular girls, and winds up kissing Stacy’s Hebrew school crush, Andy (Dylan Hoffman), at a party. Stacy is understandably devastated, and utters the title — “you’re so not invited to my bat mitzvah!” — in a fit of hormonal rage that conjures up memories of Charlotte York cursing the day Big was born in the first “Sex and the City” movie.
“YASNITMBM” (the acronym isn’t catchy, but come on, it’s a lot to type out every time) scans as a contemporary and American-ized take on Gurinder Chadha’s funny and sweet 2008 adaptation of the popular YA novel “Angus, Thongs, and Perfect Snogging,” a teen dream film that proved that Aaron Taylor-Johnson was an A-lister to look out for.
While it’s unclear if Sunny Sandler will ultimately earn the same star treatment, her natural banter (they are actually related, after all) with her on-screen and real life big sister Sadie Sandler, along with dad Adam Sandler, boasted by a relatable and authentic script from Alison Peck, turns her take on Stacy into a lovable tween icon in the making. (Worth noting: All of the Sandlers pop up in the film, as Adam Sandler’s real-life wife and the girls’ mother Jackie Sandler appears her as Lydia’s mom, although she barely has an overlapping screen time with her IRL family.)
Like “Angus,” Cohen’s film is adapted from a YA novel — this one by Fiona Rosenbloom — and carves out what hopefully will be a new subgenre for teen-centric films: forget prom dramedies, let’s go all in on bat mitzvah misfit stories. Much like Cooper Raiff’s recent indie gem “Cha Cha Real Smooth,” Cohen’s film goes hard on the in-jokes of this particular bit of teen-dom, including the use of an over-the-top DJ who is the most in-demand party starter in the area. And Stacy’s array of cute frocks rival the Macy’s tween department, as she ably turns out a fun different dress for every weekend of seventh grade (if you know, you know).
Bar and bat mitzvahs were the pre-club destinations, the ultimate parties, mini weddings if you will, and the whole family got to experience dancing the night away weekend after weekend. “YASNITMBM” does a delightful job of relating mitzvahs with coming-of-age ceremonies across various cultures in the first few minutes of the film, all the better to educate audiences that are perhaps not steeped in Jewish culture.
The split between the two different communities Stacy and her pals occupy — the bustling middle school halls and the more intimate Hebrew school surroundings — also mirror the split between public and private lives that tweens continue to grapple with. If you have a Hebrew school crush, will that translate to public school? And, in Stacy’s case, if Andy kisses Lydia at a public school party and then smooches her next to the Torah, which counts more?
The ’80s-esque sensibilities and sweet quips, rivaled only by fellow Netflix film “To All the Boys I’ve Loved,” make “YASNITMBM” an easily watchable treat for the entire family. Cohen, who previously directed the Hulu feature “Crush,” and once again proves her bonafides when it comes to translating the pains and pleasures of coming of age to the screen. Despite Stacy and Lydia’s disastrous falling out that culminates in a truly cringe reveal, the film serves as a cute throwback to a simpler time, one in which your life would simply end if your crush didn’t text you back, but one that could be totally saved by the forgiveness of a lifelong pal. Mazel tov!
“You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah” will be start streaming on Netflix on Friday, August 25.