Keeping the Faith (PG-13) No Rating

Review Date: May 18th, 2000

Christ almighty, what a funny Jew movie.

Story

Childhood friends Brian Finn (Norton), Jacob Schram (Stiller) and Anna Reilly (Jenna Elfman) reunite after 18 years apart. Both men find themselves infatuated with Anna, who has blossomed into an attractive, assertive corporate executive. Further complicating the situation: Finn is an ordained Catholic priest and Jake is a Rabbi. While Brian struggles with his vow of abstinence, Jake must confront his Jewish convictions; his congregation's audacious attempts to set him up with "nice Jewish women" and his mother (Anne Bancroft), who disowned Jake's brother for marrying outside the faith. This movie treads on some dangerous territory. People can be so touchy when it comes to laughing about religion but what better setup for a romantic comedy. Did you hear the one about a rabbi and a priest and an Irish girl?

Acting

Elfman, Stiller and Norton are electric in this unusual love triangle and much credit for the movie's success must go to the three main stars for their onscreen chemistry. They not only bring experience to their performances but a certain spark that can only be generated by the casting gods.

Direction

Edward Norton, making his directorial debut, and writer Stuart Blumberg delivers a clever and contagious comedy. Norton, avoiding intolerant and inflammatory preaching by the supporting characters. By easing past contentious subject matter, Norton presents Jake's Judaism and Brian's Catholicism in a positive, un-cynical perspective and is able to fill the film with frivolity, witty religious jokes and refreshing camaraderie. Despite its unusually long length for a comedy (more than two hours), "Keeping the Faith" maintains a quick tempo. Blumberg's screenplay flows naturally and peripheral gags don't distract from the film's focus.

Bottom Line

"Keeping the Faith" deserves your $8 offering.