by Tony Dayoub
Sixty Six is director Paul Weiland's semi-autobiographical tale about Bernie Rubens (Gregg Sulkin), a well-behaved but rather unremarkable Jewish boy growing up in 1966 England. In sports, he's always the last guy picked to join the team. At home, his mother (Helena Bonham Carter) is too busy babysitting his OCD-afflicted dad (Eddie Marsan), and tending to self-centered older brother Alvie (Ben Newton), to even notice the invisible Bernie's growing problem with asthma.
Bernie eagerly anticipates his upcoming Bar Mitzvah, certain that it will enhance his prestige among his school friends and his family. But after scheduling the celebration, he realizes that it is set for the same day as the 1966 World Cup final. His parents try to allay his fears, emphasizing that no one believes England will even make it to the final. But after a series of escalating mishaps, Bernie starts to realize that even his best efforts at casting spells, hexes, and curses in the direction of England's World Cup team may do little to prevent their destiny.
Reminiscent of Woody Allen's Radio Days, the tale is amusing, though it's story is slight and predictable to the extreme. One would hope that given the closeness he has to the story, Weiland (Made of Honor) would step up his approach to the film's structure. But it becomes obvious that Bernie's story is simply not sufficient to carry a feature length movie. There is a subplot that competes for our attention regarding Manny's business woes. Actor Marsan is so good at playing Manny, that his episodes in the film threaten to steal the spotlight from Bernie's story. To compund the problem, a narration by the lead is used to smooth over the jarring episodic structure. But all it really does is accentuate the cuteness and nostalgia, overly sentimentalizing the story.
There are great performances all around, not only from Marsan, but from Sulkin (in his screen debut), Carter, Stephen Rea as Bernie's doctor, and Richard Katz as Rabbi Linov.
But something is wrong when I care more about England's team making the final, than Bernie's celebration woes. For a more hilarious autobiographical account, rent Radio Days instead and wait for Sixty Six on DVD.
Sixty Six is in limited release. Check local listings for theaters and times.
Stills provided courtesy of First Independent Pictures.