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Keeping The Faith

        Edward Norton has been recognized for his roles in some of the most cutting edge film of the late 90's. You've got The People vs. Larry Flynt, Fight Club, or his Oscar-nominated roles in Primal Fear and as reformed neo-Nazi Derek Vinyard in 98's brutal and powerful American History X. You can't say the same for Edward Norton's new film/directorial debut, Keeping The Faith. It's more in the realm of his role in Woody Allen's below par Everyone Says I Love You. It's not a total throw away but I wouldn't add this to AFI's top 100 movies of all time list. 

        Keeping The Faith is a hybrid on the overused story of the two guys fighting for one girl story. The spin is that the two guys fighting for the girl (Jenna Elfman) are a rabbi (Ben Stiller) and a priest (Edward Norton). The three of them were best friends in 8th grade and then Anna moved away. It's a funny look at the more humorous parts of two religions plus Stiller can be funny in just about any role even in the very unfunny Mystery Men. No one should get offended at the religous content. Both religions were represented and made fun of equally, no bias here. 

        The movie is very funny at times and as stale as a five month old piece of crap at others. The film is full of clichés (like this review), overused editing techniques and boring camera angles. The clichés are the writer's fault, the other two are the directors fault. They are both a good sing of a first time director. The mixture of the music with the film was some of the worst I've seen in years. it's almost as bad as the trend of mixing rap music with karate films like Black Mask and Romeo Must Die. The worst offense of musical misuse is a scene in which the two holy men are walking down a New York City with sunglasses on to the song "Smooth" by Santana; I felt like vomiting after that scene. 

        I enjoyed the many pop culture references throughout the movie especially Norton's imitation of Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man. Look out for that scene it is one of the best. The references are numerous but many times to fast or to short to notice so be on watch for them. There are some other good scenes such as when the men of G-d play basketball against a few teenagers or when they confront a ghetto-acting Asian man named Don who tries to sell them a karaoke machine. They are both very funny scenes.

        All three leads were well cast. Ben Stiller role was the best written and the funniest. His performance sticks out Norton's character was less funny but he was still good. Elfman was hot, funny, and impressive in her role as Anna Reilly. Although it was not a huge jump from her role in "Dharma and Greg", it still worked here even though that show is already on a steep downhill slope. There were more good supporting performances by Anne Bancroft as Stiller's mother and Milos Forman (also director of People vs. Larry Flynt and Man on The Moon) as Norton's clergymen mentor. 

        A smart and witty script naturally displayed on screen from Norton's eyes. The script is by first timer Stuart Blumberg, Norton's school chum from Yale. It's a nice, new spin on some previous material. It's a film about the choices people make in their actual life and their spiritual one. 

        I enjoyed watching this film. I laughed and was entertained. If you like this kind of movie or you like Ben Stiller then see this movie.

Rating: *** out of **** stars
Reviewed by: Joe Soria
Running Time: 115 minutes
Rated PG-13 for some sexuality and language.

Starring: Edward Norton, Ben Stiller, Jenna Elfman, Anne Bancroft, Milos Forman
Written by: Stuart Blumberg 
Directed by: Edward Norton

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