In the 1960’s in New York City, 12-year-old Steven Lidz (Nathan Watt) is living happily with his devoted but peculiar dad (John Turturro), his loving mother (Andie MacDowell), and his young sister. At the time, his most pressing challenge is the speech he must make for a school election campaign. But his life is turned upside down when his mother becomes seriously ill with influenza. This is more than he can handle, so he goes to live with his two nearby, wildly eccentric uncles, Danny and Arthur (Michael Richards and Maury Chaykin), until his mother improves. That’s when the fun begins because there’s never a dull moment at his uncles’ junk-filled apartment. The landlord is always after the two men to clean up their place, but Steven enjoys living there as they collect junk together, visit the family cemetery and generally try to avoid the landlord. Also, Steven decides to start attending his uncles’ Jewish synagogue. But dark clouds are on the horizon as his mother’s health continues to deteriorate. UNSTRUNG HEROES is a bittersweet comedy which will not appeal to everyone, but many adults will find it compelling and entertaining. It’s a refreshing change from most of today’s high energy, hi-tech films.
It’s also refreshing to see a film which features a loving, devoted family. Steven’s dad is somewhat strange, but he loves his two children and spends time with them. And Steven is very attached to his mother who creates a loving, happy atmosphere in their home. The only real hitch in the family relationships is the father’s obsession with science and his disdain for religion and belief in God. He softens somewhat, though, when his dying wife says “some of us want to believe there is a God,” and when Steven participates in the bar mitzvah studies and ceremony. The film’s only serious blemish is the use of a number of hells and damns, one obscenity and one muffled regular profanity. These are unfortunate, but overall UNSTRUNG HEROES is a poignant, funny, uplifting film.