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A Plague Upon Their Unhappy House?

March 24, 2011 By:
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The cast offers more than a peep into "Peep World," opening March 25 and as Video on Demand on cable. Photo courtesy of IFC

This Jewish family has each other's back.

Which makes stabbing all the much easier.

Take a peep into the "Peep World" of the Meyerwitz clan, whose Patton-like patriarch (Ron Rifkin) acts as Jewish general to his ragtag rejects of an army/ family.

Battle lines are drawn over the father's 70th birthday dinner where arguments and acrimony are rationed out to each family member.

Ripping a page out of their lives -- and ripping the heart out from each and every member-- is sole success Nathan (Ben Schwartz), whose book about his family is an index of its discord, dissing on what makes dysfunctional their middle name.

The movie opens nationally on March 25 and is available on TV as a Video on Demand (VOD).

"Peep World" -- the movie, the book by Nathan, the reel movie within the movie and the porno shop Jack (Michael C. Hall) is off and running to whenever he runs out of Rolaids for relief from his failed career -- is a seder-like ceremony in which all the participants are slaves to semi-serious emotional afflictions, ruled by a dad (maybe, after all, more Rameses than ramrod Patton) who tries to verbally whip them into shape.

The Meyerwitz family may be mired in acrimony, but their self-written Haggadah has more "ha!" moments than the original -- even if Joel's (Rainn Wilson) pyramid scheme for success has him hounded by the Honduras Credit Union with a repayment plan that would make the plagues seem like a time-share vacation in contrast.

Familiar Faces

Why is this comedy different from others?

Surely, families that don't see oy-to-oy have been common since the Common Era.

But somehow, the dorks and doorknobs that open up their unhinged hearts here are better assayed than most by a team of mainly TV actors -- and one stand-out standup, Sarah Silverman, as the histrionic queen of denial whose birthday dinner date, a Jew for Jesus, is himself a bitter Herb.

"Peep World" and the father whose eyes are wide shut to his family's problems -- actor Rifkin has the right substance of fire to enflame one and all -- are a perfect fit for families soon to sit down to a seder table, and whine about each other over sweet wine and roar like lions while brandishing the lamb shanks as weapons.

If there is one moral to this more-than-a-TV-movie, it is, yes, look around the table and realize things could be better.

But then again, they could be worse.

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