Movie Review: Judd Hirsch goes adorably shticky– “iMordecai”

The Oscar-nominated “The Fabelmans” showed that there’s still an audience for Judd Hirsch leaning into the Old Jewish Man shtick, which makes the indie comedy “iMordecai” marketable.

So here we are and here he is, a very old man in a “Virginia is for Lovers” hat, paired up with his “Taxi” co-star Carol Kane, shaming his son (Sean Astin) for showing up in a Porsche, “a Nazi sh– car,” jackhammering his condo’s bathroom floor because, “Vot, you vant I should use a toothpick?”

Mordecai Samel goes around telling everyone he’s 80, when we’ve already heard him narrate the animated first act of his life story, born in rural Poland in 1933 ( 90 years ago).

Vot, ve can’t do math?

He survived the Russians occupying his village, escaped the Holocaust, married Fela (Kane) and retired to Florida, a former plumber and painter with his “nudnik” new-father son (Astin) nearby, a “schlemiel” who doesn’t know a pipe wrench from channel locks.

But when the kid insists Dad get a new iPhone, all the kvetching in the world can’t save Mordecai from his fate, to become intimate with Siri and “that brainwashing device by Stalin,” as Fela puts it, in his pocket.

It’s not every iPhone-using senior who gets one-on-one lessons on how to used the phone “with no buttons.” But saleslady Nina (Azia Dinea Hale) takes an interest. And as we gather from her volunteering at the local Jewish Community Center, she’s got a keen interest in Holocaust survivors.

Director and co-writer Marvin Samel begins this story with Mordecai relating (animated) family lore that he was born under a Polish apple tree, and bonked on the head at birth. I’d say Samel leaves no low-hanging-fruit unpicked in this undemanding, comfort food comedy, but the truth is, he does.

The picture tends to peter out as we drift away from Mordecai, relating his life story to Nina in animated flashbacks (Remember, he’s a painter, and not just a housepainter.). His son is a Florida cigar maker, hoping to make that big score and sell his company. But his aged Dad has always been his “jinx.”

We get a glimpse of son Marvin’s (there’s a bit of autobiography here) home life — wife (Stephanie J. Block), newborn twins with Dad plainly pushing 50. But there’s not much that’s funny in that story thread, and the comic legend Kane is kind of wasted in a role that shifts into dementia.

“Her mind isn’t working like it used to.”

“So whose is?”

Hirsch’s storied TV career had him mostly playing the straight man, a reactor to assorted madcap friends and colleagues cast opposite him on shows like “Taxi” and “Dear John.” Here, he carries all the comic weight, advising a young cell phone seller on how to earn laughs from the stand-up stage, attempting plumbing fixes, “jinxing” things for his kid and making his dotty wife jealous at all the women trying to “steal you away.”

It’s a fun performance in a poor-to-middling dramedy. If you haven’t seen “The Fabelmans,” you really haven’t seen him pulling out all the stops, which is something to behold.

Rating: unrated, profanity

Cast: Jodd Hirsch, Carol Kane, Azia Dinea Hale, Nick Puga, Stephanie J. Block and Sean Astin.

Credits: Directed by Marvin Samel, scripted by Rudy Gaines, Marvin Samel and Dahlia Heyman. A Femor release.

Running time: 1:42

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About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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