Keeping the Faith (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Two childhood friends grow up to be a priest and a rabbi side-by-side in their old neighborhood. Their lively attitudes revitalize their congregations, and life is good until their best friend from childhod comes back into their lives.

She's a woman. A non-Jewish woman. And they both fall in love with her. Well, the rabbi can't marry her, and the priest can't ... well, you get the picture.

Edward Norton produced, directed and starred in this cutesy fluff comedy, which co-stars Jenna Elfman and Ben Stiller. More than anything else, it is a love-poem to New York City, and I liked it on that level, but not really any other. I didn't think it was so romantic, or so very funny, either. The funniest scene was in the previews, and you've already seen it. (Stiller punching the insistent woman in the stomach)

Overall, it just wasn't that good an idea. It's a romantic comedy in which none of the possible pairings can work in harmony with the lives of the lovers, so it really can't come to a very satisfying conclusion without some contrivances. The first 45 minutes are fast-paced and lively and heart-warming, and then it really bogs down, and just deteriorates into a mess that goes nowhere with no humor and not much emotion either until the artificial conclusion.

The conclusion, and several of the other plot elements, hinges on the three main characters lying to or keeping secrets from each other, which seemed to me totally out of synch considering that two of them were religious leaders who also served as psychologist/confessors to their communities. I think they would discuss these things with each other. But then there would be no movie.

Norton's directorial debut had the advantage of about the best thing any movie can have - Edward Norton starring in the movie. And it wasn't such a bad coup to land Anne Bancroft either. Norton is just so damned charming that it almost makes up for his unlearned directing.

.... almost, but not quite.

NOTE: look for a director Milos Forman in a small role .

NUDITY: Oh, brother. Elfman does about four thousand sex scenes with her clothes on or under the sheets! She did show some serious pokiosity in a deleted scene in which she fell into a museum fountain. In another deleted scene she strapped a vibrating cell phone to her crotch, then jumped in ecstasy when the call arrived at an inopportune time. This could have been the funniest scene in the movie, and they cut it.

Box Office: A profit-maker. Took in $37 million domestic plus foreign and other, thus handsomely paying back the $30 million budget. Was released in about 2000 theaters. (That's a general wide release. Expected blockbusters reach 3000 screens. Targeted quality films like American Beauty will be shown in about a thousand.)

IMDB summary: 7.5 out of 10. A good score. The film was liked by moviegoers more than by critics.

Rotten Tomatoes summary. 66% positive reviews from all critics, but only 53% from the elite critics.

DVD info from Amazon. Several deleted scenes, and a gag reel. In addition to the funny scene I mentioned above, they also cut a very touching scene between Elfman and Bancroft. I suppose they cut it because it was too somber and too long, but it is worth a look.

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