Saturday, 14 June 2008

DVD: Sixty Six

Lowdown: Everything coming in the way of a boy and his Bar Mitzvah.
I used to think that I was aware of most contemporary films concerning football but obviously I was wrong: Sixty Six managed to completely pass under my radar up until it was recommended by a friend from work. I consider myself lucky to have received this recommendation, because Sixty Six is one good English comedy.
The year is 1966 and the location is London. A pretty useless but nice Jewish boy, the son of a pretty useless but nice father and the brother of a terrorizing older brother, is about to have his Bar Mitzvah. He's dreaming about it for ages and plans all the little celebration details, including the dreaded seating arrangements and the invitations, the nemesis of all celebrators.
Alas, during 1966 England was hosting the football world cup, and as it turns out the tournament's final falls exactly on the date of the Bar Mitzvah. The boy ends up being the only one in England who barracks against his national team in the hope it won't reach the final so he could have a decent Bar Mitzvah with plenty of worthy guests and nice gifts, but as England progresses up the tournament his hopes shatter one by one. It's not only the football, but through the nature of his father his family's financial situation deteriorates and his dream Bar Mitzvah looks as promising as contemporary the English national football team's prospects are (for the record, England failed to qualify to the current Euro 2008).
Besides the main line of the Bar Mitzvah falling on the cup final day, Sixty Six is fulll of Jewish folklore jokes. To be honest, I doubt you need much of an understanding in the way of the Jew to get the jokes; they are pretty much the cliche Jewish jokes we are used to, from hiding money up the roof to the weirdo rabbi that packs some worthy insight up his sleeve.
The thing about Sixty Six is that it works. The jokes are funny, for a start; I mean, the idea of building a comedy around the collision between a national event and a personal event is brilliant to begin with and has the potential to supply tons of easy jokes. Ultimately, though, Sixty Six is about the son and the father connecting with one another through the event that is the Bar Mitzvah, so comedy aside you do end up with a rather personal and touching story.
Watching Sixty Six certainly brought up lots of personal Bar Mitzvah memories. For a start, like the movie's hero my own Bar Mizvah was a rather minor affair that paled in the shadow of my older brother's elaborate celebrations. Unlike the movie, though, I was happy with the lower key celebration as I couldn't care less about the Bar Mitzvah and just did it for the lure of the gifts. Yet just like in the movie the gifts were crap... But while the movie's Bar Mitzvah was a tool to get a father and son together, my own Bar Mitzvah didn't bring me any closer to my father; we just went through the required motions together in a rather mechanical way (I'm really ashamed to say I did study my bible passages rather tediously). That is actually one of my major problems with those who practice religion: with most of them, religion starts and ends with the rituals, without much in the way of understanding what these are supposed to represent and the thinking behind them. Not that I endorse religion in any way - for a start, putting grown up responsibilities on the shoulders of a 13 year old qualifies as either crime or idiocy in my book - but at least the movie's Bar Mitzvah managed to unite a family.
I guess that is the nature of most movies, though: they take you into a world of fantasy.
Best scene: The father drives the son to Wembley stadium during the film's climax. Uncharacteristically, he speeds and he crosses a red light; when he's stopped by the police he appeals to the policeman's national pride for mercy, only to discover the guy's a Scot.
To be honest, there's a multitude of similarly funny scenes in Sixty Six; the thing about this one is how well it fits the climax. It's a timing thing.
Overall: Innocently charming worth 3.5 stars out of 5, but much more enjoyable than its star rating might lead you to think. A comedy that is really worth watching.

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