Hava Nagila: The Movie Reviews
Narrated by actress Rusty Schwimmer (North Country, The Perfect Storm), the film is basically one long history lesson, tracking the song's evolution over the last couple of centuries. Its origins begin nearly two hundred years ago in the Ukraine where families still war over who actually authored it. Over time the song came to mean many different things as it moved around the world and became enveloped in the culture of different people. Doubtful anyone expected it would turn up in America co-opted into our television shows and covered by musicians of literally every genre. Harry Belafonte, who ran it into the ground during his lengthy career, is probably the biggest name to turn up and sing its praises. While the film maintains a light, bouncy attitude, it also shows that the song had special significance during the most trying times in Jewish history, namely during the Holocaust. Strangely, the snarky, ironic tone doesn't really change even then.
Informative and often quite a joy to watch, there's the sense that Grossman is stretching to meet the 73-minute runtime. So we get lots of added fluff, mostly in the form of interviews with people who have nothing of importance to add to the discussion. There is one exception and that's the inclusion of the Klezmatics, a klezmer band who would rather do anything than play Hava Nagila. A documentary on them would be a hoot.
Like the song itself, Hava Nagila: The Movie may only appeal to those who are in the right mood for it. For them, the film will be a cheery, nostalgic journey. For everyone else, all they'll get out of it is a really irritating earworm for a few days.