The movie FAMILY PRAYERS tells about 12-year-old Andrew Yellin who is forced to grow up when his father refuses to do so. In 1967 America, Martin Yellin (Joe Mantegna) is a charmer who showers his family with terms of affection. However, at night, he is afraid of the strangers pounding on his door, demanding that he pay his gambling debts. Andrew strives to protect his four-year-old sister, Fay, from the painful sounds that nightly find their way through bedroom doors. Martin Yellin’s gambling is slowly tearing the family apart. Andrew has problems of his own, but he believes it is his responsibility to keep the family together. He announces that he doesn’t want to go through with his bar mitzvah, hoping that the money for this event can be used to pay off his father’s creditors. The gambling debts get worse, and Andrew realizes that to refuse to go through with the bar mitzvah would be to refuse the importance of his own life.
FAMILY PRAYERS is a small, gritty movie–a poignant story of faith and wisdom. A love for God and His Word written is manifest in FAMILY PRAYERS. Joe Mantegna creates an unforgettable portrait of a man spoiled by his looks and smooth tongue who has never grown up. The script draws us into this ironic story with compassion and pathos. Regrettably, the budget limits the scope and appeal of the film. Also, the profanity is an affront to the bar mitzvah storyline of a boy who finds the faith of his people.
(B, LL, V, H) This poignant story of a young Jewish boy who embraces his religion is marred by approximately 13 profanities and 4 obscenities, minor violence and some confusion of Judaism with 1960's liberalism.