My Mum bought a bunch of ex-rental DVDs for some unknown reason and somehow a pile ended up at my house. I mentioned I had seen this film and from memory it was OK, my Mum said ‘well you keep this and watch it again’. That was literally the year before last – 2010 for those non mathe-magicians among us…
I just couldn’t bother bringing myself to watch it again. Even when I was running out of movies to review and trips to the video shop saw me walking the same aisles past the same titles, I looked at the cover and thought ‘not tonight’ more times than Hugh Hefner’s latest silicon infused gold-digging partner.
So last night I bit the bullet and watched it. Not bad. Not good. Just a movie.
Jake, Brian and Anna were an inseparable trio as pre-pubescent teens, goofing off, hanging around and chillin’ out. A veritable triathlon of pointlessness. A family move saw Anna abruptly be swept away to the other side of the continental United States, but Brian (Ed Norton) and Jake (Ben Stiller) stuck together, progressing through life and maturing into fine young men of the cloth, a rabbi and priest respectively. And not just any young preachers either, but highly respected and charismatic young tyros, both ambitious enough and with sufficient personality to revitalise the local interest in their respective faiths.
Brian and Jake remained inseparable and held big plans for the future, both for themselves and their churches.
Then one day along came Anna (Jenna Elfman).
Now a hard nosed business woman with a mobile phone perpetually affixed to her stridently pulled back hair, she is in New York for a short business trip and calls ahead to organise a catch up.
What ensues is a frequently contrived sorta-love triangle, replete with the ‘let’s keep it simple’ initial motif. But of course nothing in a rom-com is ever simple, except most of the leading actors in them.
Roadblocks include domineering parents and parishioners, the pull and expectation of the church and the career vs relationship conundrum. The film has the obligatory ‘everything turns to shit’ moment. There are wise words from strangers and Tough Decisions must be made.
The film was actually directed by Ed Norton – as far as I know still his only directorial effort – perhaps because as a director he is a great actor. There was nothing wrong with this film, but it is entirely unremarkable and formulaic, relying on cutesy situations (two religious leaders wearing cool dark sunglasses and interacting with the public like they’re real people!) and semi-amusing twists on religious terms to fool us into thinking it’s all quite clever and deep, before someone performs a pratfall and reminds us that it’s really just another rom-com with a trio of kinda likable actors.
Ben Stiller proves he is at his best when he is serious or semi-serious (aside from Zoolander I NEVER buy him in total goofball stuff like Along came Polly – for the record Tropic Thunder is semi-serious). Jenna Elfman does nothing but remind me that she has always annoyed me, and it is mystifying to think that this hard-nosed bitch could possibly be the one that elicits such raw emotion from two people of pure faith who lead such solid lives.
Ed himself is the thinnest character, he also lumbers himself with some of the worst jokes this side of an episode of The View.
I wasn’t disappointed to have watched Keeping the Faith, but now I kinda remember why I took so long to get to it.
Final Rating – 6 / 10. As semi-tolerable as an awkward rom-com with contrived situations and light ‘n’ fluffy jokes can be.