Keeping the Faith

What the heck goes through the head of Ed Norton? The films he chooses are all over the place. He sang in Everyone Says I Love You and was a racist in American History X. He played roles that are more conventional in The People vs. Larry Flynt, Primal Fear, and more recently starred in Fight Club. Now, he stars and directs Keeping the Faith, a surprisingly funny, old-fashioned comedy. As long as he keeps giving good performances, as he does here, Norton can, and will do whatever he wants to do.

Father Brian Finn (Norton) and Rabbi Jake Schram (Ben Stiller, Mystery Men, Permanent Midnight) are known as "the God Squad." They have been friends since they were boys, and their friendship is still strong today. Their devotion to their faith is strong, as is their conviction to turn religion into something special. Anna Reilly (Jenna Elfman, EdTV, ABC's Dharma and Greg) was their other friend until she moved away during the eighth grade. All of a sudden, she calls Finn and tells him she is coming back to New York. Reilly, now statuesque and beautiful, attracts both Finn and Schram, both of whom are single. Finn because of his vows, and Schram, because he cannot find the right woman, despite the attempts of everyone in his congregation to set him up. Schram and Reilly begin a relationship but do not tell Finn, whose feelings for Reilly also grow.

Thankfully, Stuart Blumberg's script stays away from making fun of religion. That is easy to do, and is has been done before. Instead, Blumberg aims for the more difficult; finding the humor inherent in everyday situations. There are lots of physical comedy, by both Stiller and Norton, and a surprising lack of it by Elfman. Blumberg's script also provides plenty of clever dialogue, with lots of back and forth between Stiller and Norton. They are two normal people who happen to believe strongly in Catholicism and Judaism, instead of being religious buffoons. Even when Keeping the Faith slows down for some drama, the dialogue still shines enough to keep a smile on anyone's face.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Good.
2 hours, 8 minutes, Rated PG-13 for some sexuality and langauge.

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