by Jazmine Ponce
Arts & Entertainment Editor
A priest, a rabbi and a blonde — not the beginning of a joke, but-the plot line for the romantic comedy, “Keeping the Faith.” It stars Ben Stiller (“There’s Something About Mary”), Jenna Elfman (“EdTV” and TV’s “Dharma and Greg”) and first time director Edward Norton (“Fight Club”).
Rabbi Jake Schram (Stiller) and his childhood best friend, Father Brian Kilkenny (Norton), are known as the “God Squad” and live in New York’s upper West Side. Together they are both outside the norm of their religions and are planning to combine their religions and make the first ever karaoke/coffee house/dance hall for seniors of Catholic and Jewish faith.
All is well for the rabbi and the priest until their childhood friend, Anna Riley (Elfman) re-enters their life. Once a gawky teen, who came to their rescue from a bully, Riley is now a grown-up, attractive, workaholic executive. This begins one of the oddest love triangles.
Rabbi Schram and Father Kilkenny begin to question their religious calling, wondering if Riley is the one (for those unfamiliar with religion, a rabbi can date and for a priest, dating is prohibited).
At the same time, Schram is constantly getting chased by single women of his congregation and getting set up on blind dates by his mother (Anne Bancroft).
Soon Schram begins dating a pretty journalist from his congregation and at the same time begins to realize that Riley is the one for him and the feeling is mutual. Schram and Riley begin a secret relationship unbeknownst to Kilkenny, whose feelings for Riley are growing rapidly. The chaos begins when Kilkenny questions priesthood, Riley really falls for Schram and he is dealt with the guilt of not telling his best friend while trying to keep his non-Jewish girlfriend a secret from his congregation as well as his mother.
“Keeping the Faith” is a sweet and funny romantic comedy with high jinx reminiscent of 1930s screwball comedies. Though “Keeping the Faith” is no “Philadelphia Story,” nor are the stars Cary Grant or Katharine Hepburn, the movie comes close to recreating the simple movies of those times.
Fans of Elfman’s wacky character in “Dharma and Greg,” will find no goofy Dharma here, which is a good thing. Few actors are able to break the mold of their well known characters, but Elfman is great as Riley and brings a sly wit, and sensitivity to her role.
Stiller who always brings character and hilarious comedy to his roles, does well as a romantic leading man.
Known for his dark and gritty dramatic roles, Norton first step into comedy is good, but he does his best when performing with Stiller. Both have great chemistry and their scenes together are some of the funniest in the movie. Especially one scene, where they are walking down the street clad in leather jackets and sunglasses a la “Saturday Night Fever.” Who cannot laugh at the “God Squad” high fiving people to the tune of Santana’s “Smooth.”
“Keeping the Faith” is funny and entertaining but at times relies too much on shtick and pratfalls for big laughs. How many times can someone see Stiller get punched by some big security guy? It just gets old.
Stiller, Norton and Elfman, exceptional actors, are not used to the best of their ability and sometimes get lost in the over the top antics.
For director Norton, the film is a great effort, but at two hours and nine minutes is way too long for a comedy. Some scenes seem to drag, and should have been edited, but audiences will get a vibrant view of New York City.
The movie is good for those looking for a laugh and is a date movie. Look for some upstaging by supporting characters such as Don Leung, as Don the karaoke store salesman, and Lisa Elderstein as Ali, the aerobic obsessed man-hungry date of Schram.
With a creative script and great actors, “Faith” will most likely be enjoyed by all.
Journalism operations manager at the University of La Verne. Production manager and business manager of the Campus Times.