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Keeping the Faith

Edward Norton's Keeping the Faith — his first directorial effort — comes up with a fun premise. Unfortunately, it's the execution that falls apart. Norton co-stars with Ben Stiller as childhood pals Brian and Jake, one who was raised Catholic, the other from a Jewish family. And while both in adulthood become leaders in their faiths as a priest and a rabbi respectively, they still remain close pals, finding common ground in each other's religious commitments rather than hashing over the small details that, well, make folks Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, Mormon, etc. But when their old friend Anna (Jenna Elfman), who stole their hearts in grade school as a sexy tomboy, returns to New York all-grown-up and with a high-powered career, both fall in love with her, which causes more than a little tension in their Judeo-Christian fraternity of two. On the face of it, Keeping the Faith should have knocked one out of the park. Norton and Stiller are two gifted actors with remarkable comic timing, and Elfman — if she gets the right roles down the road — has enough talent and charm to join the A-list of Hollywood leading ladies. And indeed, the first part of the film, which focuses on Brian and Jake's unusual friendship (and even more unusual vocations) has its share of fun moments, even if a few of them are a little heavy-handed and play like a recruitment film for faith-based professions ("See, you can be religious and hip too!"). But where things take a turn for the worse is, surprisingly, when the fetching Elfman joins the plot, turning the oddball comedy into a long-winded remake of Broadcast News, but with none of the clever bits. After just a few navel-gazing scenes where the characters share their feelings and debate their identities ad infinitum, you might as well be watching a low-budget weepie made specifically for chick-cable. Hmmm... maybe all those overbearing religious jokes early on weren't so bad after all. Good anamorphic transfer (1.85:1), DD 5.1. Commentary track with Norton and writer/producer Stuart Blumberg, 10 deleted scenes, 7-minute gag reel, trailer, cast and crew notes. Keep-case.

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