"We had a kid who was really into 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,' " James recalls, "so we had a purple suit made for him, and we hired these people to be Oompa Loompas and they came out and danced. We had these trees with candy all over them, with signs that said 'Do not eat.' It was fantastic."
I have two things to note: one, is that it doesn't cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to put a kid in a chair and have him carried around the room by strapping relatives, which is as big a thrill any thirteen-year-old ever needs.
Second is that if you want an antidote to all this, pick up Mark Oppenheimer's Thirteen and a Day: The Bar and Bat Mitzvah Across America, which only briefly covers NYC-area ridiculousness ("selling an experience more ethnic than any that the children’s parents would allow them to experience for real.”) to then focus on some really wonderful celebrations -- Lubavitchers in Alaska, an eccentric reform community in Arkansas, adult b'nai mitzvah in Lake Charles, Louisana, and the like. Y'know -- where the theme isn't "Austin Powers", but Judaism.