Reuniting the Rubins


Oy vey, Mumsy. Every time hapless widowed barrister Lenny Rubin (Timothy Spall) tries to embark on a relaxing sea cruise, his high-maintenance mother (Honor Blackman) calls him back. Convinced that her far-flung family will reunite only at her own funeral, Gran Rubin flees her retirement home, buys back the family estate, and browbeats Lenny into summoning his children for a Passover feast. Too bad Lenny’s brood is a Catskills joke in the flesh: What happens when you put a rabbi, a Buddhist monk, a high-strung capitalist, and a lesbian humanitarian together in the same room? Not comedy, it turns out. Writer-director Yoav Factor’s debut feature gets caught between the novelty of an English-Jewish milieu and the rank familiarity of the home-for-the-holidays farce—jokes are choked by sentiment, and even idiosyncrasies seem hackneyed. Factor does himself no favors by slathering a schmaltzy score over the whole affair; a madcap race-the-pregnant-lady-to-the-hospital sequence sounds distinctly like mid-afternoon in a Nordstrom atrium. Not even the solid cast, led by Mike Leigh/Harry Potter mainstay Spall and the feisty Blackman (onetime Pussy Galore), can maneuver around the solid borders of their cartoon characters. And a pile-on of incident in the third act—a death, a birth, a multibillion-dollar business deal, a junta in the Congo—can’t rouse the film from its ultimate calling as a cinematic snooze button for the senior set.