The Groomsmen (2006) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Ed Burns doesn't attract a lot of fanfare as a writer/director/producer, but he has slowly and steadily carved out a solid career as one of America's distinctive independent voices. If Woody Allen was the voice of Manhattan's droopy-shouldered neurotics, Burns is the voice of the outer boroughs: plain-spoken, barbed, ball-busting, coarse and masculine. You can't imagine a Woody Allen character saying "don't bullshit me, man," but that classic New Yorkism symbolizes what goes in in Burns's films: guys try to strip away their own and each other's facades and just trying to talk to one another about what's really on their minds. Given their tough-guy, working class backgrounds, it's not always easy for them.

In the last eleven years, there are seven films which Burns has both written and directed while fitting his career as an auteur in the interstices of a respectable career as an actor in other people's movies. He doesn't have a major triumph in his filmography, but he doesn't have any crap in there either, and his production is as consistent and reliable as his IMDb scores.

  1. (6.49) - Sidewalks of New York (2001)
  2. (6.39) - The Brothers McMullen (1995)
  3. (6.08) - The Groomsmen (2006)
  4. (6.00) - She's the One (1996)
  5. (5.81) - Ash Wednesday (2002)
  6. (5.76) - Looking for Kitty (2004)
  7. (5.72) - No Looking Back (1998

I haven't always liked his movies or found them entertaining, but I always like what he tries to accomplish. He creates real people and gets them interacting over real matters. His characters may or may not draw me into their lives, but I always get the feeling that I'm watching real people. Burns is good at that. That's the sort of thing that independent film is quite good at in general, and maybe it's something that studio films should do better instead of cranking out formulaic and adolescent fantasies.

The Groomsman has a rather familiar premise. A guy's wedding is about a week away, and his best friends are re-uniting in preparation for their roles as the groomsmen. They each have issues to deal with, and to share with the others. The groom (Burns) is experiencing some pre-wedding doubts and jitters.  His older brother has been acting like a complete prick recently, and nobody can figure out why.  He has a dark secret. One friend hasn't been seen in eight years, after having left town without saying good-bye to anyone. He has an even darker secret. One guy has never grown up at all. One guy is living a sensible life as a husband and father. Some of them need to work out issues with their significant others, while others have to reconcile with parents. About the only thing that makes this different from any other treatment you have seen of these themes is that it is seen through the eyes of regular, everyday "don't bullshit me" guys.

In other words, it's a soap opera for men.

It's a solid effort, as Burns's films generally are, but the key question for discussion is why a pretty good flick like this ended up in no more than 73 theaters, and grossed only $125,000. I guess the answer to that lies in understanding the answer to this one, "How many people actually want to watch a soap opera for men?" Some indy filmmakers find an arthouse audience, but those audiences don't generally go for Burn's kind of rugged, down-to-earth masculine camaraderie. Women who enjoy emotional dramas are probably going to gravitate to the kind of soap operas they like, ones told from a woman's point of view. Men generally go to movies for escapist entertainment rather than to watch people express mature emotions. 

Net audience for this film: very small.

I mentioned earlier that I don't always get involved in Burns's films, but I got hooked into this one. I very much like the fact that he was able to make the film more of a structured entertainment experience in terms of conventional plotting and comic set-pieces, in the manner of a Hollywood rom-com, without making it all seem phony, and without losing his regular-guy ambience. It's halfway between a Burns film and a Hollywood film, and it works for me. The reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle summed up my feeling with this statement: "This is like any other Edward Burns film, except for one thing. It's unmistakably better. This is the movie I believe Burns has been trying to make since The Brothers McMullen, 11 years ago."

Jay Mohr (as the "emotional retard") and John Leguizamo (as the guy who disappeared for eight years) are talented comics, and their gift for street-savvy repartee brought a bit of needed light to a film that might have gotten too dark without them. The rest of the cast is solid, the characters are drawn with a great deal of care, and I felt that actual events were transpiring before my eyes. What the script lacks in pizzazz it makes up in heart.

Frankly, I don't know how Burns continues to finance these films, or whether he makes a profit on them,  but I'm glad somebody makes them, and I hope he keeps at it.



  • No features
  • the transfer is anamorphically enhanced, and is not especially vivid



I do wish Burns would get some nudity into these flicks. In this one, the only nudity is a brief bit of background stripping, Sopranos style. It's only one woman, and even she is never seen clearly. There is not a single frame with her full body and head together and in focus

The Critics Vote ...

  • Super-panel:  Entertainment Weekly (Gleiberman) rated it a B


The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 6.1/10, which is about where I would have pegged it.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

Our own guideline:

  • A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre.
  • B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. In order to rate at least a B-, a film should be both a critical and commercial success. Exceptions: (1) We will occasionally rate a film B- with good popular acceptance and bad reviews, if we believe the critics have severely underrated a film. (2) We may also assign a B- or better to a well-reviewed film which did not do well at the box office if we feel that the fault lay in the marketing of the film, and that the film might have been a hit if people had known about it. (Like, for example, The Waterdance.)
  • C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by people who enjoy this kind of movie. If this is your kind of movie, a C+ and an A are indistinguishable to you.
  • C means it is competent, but uninspired genre fare. People who like this kind of movie will think it satisfactory. Others probably will not.
  • C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie, but genre addicts find it watchable. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film, but films with this rating should be approached with caution by mainstream audiences, who may find them incompetent or repulsive or both. If this is NOT your kind of movie, a C- and an E are indistinguishable to you.
  • D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-. Films rated below C- generally have both bad reviews and poor popular acceptance.
  • E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre.
  • F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.


Based on this description, this film is a C. It's difficult to grade since the genre is something like "soap opera for men," and there are not many to compare it to, but I guess the point is that it is a solid movie. If the concept is interesting to you, you should be satisfied with the execution of it.

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