A part-time pool-hall hustler and full-time louse, Jaeckie Zucker (Hbchen) relies on his wits and his former fame as a Communist sportscaster to get by. His family has disowned him, and his gentlemen's club, "designed for East Germany nostalgists," is on the verge of foreclosure thanks to gambling debts. Then the phone rings: Jaeckie's mother has just passed away and there's a substantial inheritance to be had. The catch is that our hero—a longtime lapsed Jew—has to sit shivah with his estranged Orthodox brother Samuel (Samel) and oddball relatives in order to cash in.
Viewers fluent in culture-clash comedy can't be faulted for expecting hilarious ethnic-based shenanigans to ensue: Will Jaeckie serve bacon smothered in cheese for the seudat havrach? Will he forget to put on his yarmulke correctly? But director Dani Levy avoids the obvious route of nonstop goofing on both Judaica and the nonobservant, thus sparing us plenty of bad religious ribbing. Unfortunately, Levy doesn't offer much in its stead other than go-nowhere gags (Samuel accidentally takes ecstasy, Jaeckie repeatedly fakes heart attacks to attend a billiards championship) and several competing plotlines, all designed to let the group healing begin by the last reel. Yes, a post-WWII German comedy about being Jewish is a noteworthy concept, but isn't a farce also required to be at least a little funny? (Opens Fri; Landmark Sunshine.)—David Fear