A hand enters the frame to select a tape from the stacks. Strategically shelved label-out next to “Donny’s Party” — the cassette that has transcribed on it in rapidly deteriorating magnetic particles the 1998 reception at hand — is a VHS tape with “Barney Porn” scrawled across its spine. This level of wit sets the watermark for the uniformly infantile, sex obsessed assemblage of unstructured blackout gags to follow. Hollywood red carpet-themed Bar/t Mitzvah bashes have long become a celebratory staple in the Jewish community. If the goal was to lampoon a videographer’s craftsmanship, well, unless it belongs to one of Spielberg’s kids, what Bar Mitzvah tape offers three-camera coverage, complete with aerial shots and reverse angles? If nothing else, Jonathan Kaufman, making his inauspicious debut as writer-producer-director, got the 4:3 aspect ratio right. Other than stating the obvious — the post-reading-from-the-Torah shindig is thrown more to impress adults than 13-year-olds — what lies ahead amounts to little more that wringing laughs through shock and disgust. Even the vilest subject matter can be made funny when placed in the proper hands. On Kaufman’s soul-crushing watch, gags involving alcoholism, child abuse, Bubby snorting rails, children playing with dildos, and Donny’s dream girl succumbing to a riot hose blast of projectile vomit don’t amuse, they offend. But wait, there’s more. 2020 was a deplorably counter-productive year for Danny Trejo (The Last Exorcist, Lumpia with a Vengeance, Death Rider in the House of Vampires). 2021 finds the star at his self-parodic nadir, a one-joke gag dressed in drag. Things can only go up from here... we hope. (2021) — Scott Marks
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