Amen to your Oi
Keeping the Faith
Review by Ross Anthony

We all love Ben Stiller of "Something About Mary." And Ed Norton has certainly become a well respected actor of recent time. (He's directing this picture, by the way.) And who could resist the sexy tomboy Jenna Elfman (Greg's Dharma)? But there's something about this reasonably funny film "Keeping the Faith" that leaves a lingering doubt.

For sure the premise is devilishly sweet. Three best friends from childhood: one becomes a priest (Norton), the other a rabbi (take a guess), the third an aggressive high-powered business consultant (Elfman). Best buddies as they worship the big guy, Norton and Stiller are altar-cowboys, inspiring their respective New York congregations with refreshing zeal and silliness, but not without a whole heart full of sincerity. This is where the film radiates. Their friendship, confidence, love, and faith is expressed in a wonderfully real, non-traditional, humorous, near-MTV, open/honest way. One Santana-slick scene preaches this message without a spoken word: collar-clad Norton and yarmulke-topped Stiller saunter down the streets of New York in variable-slow-mo, donning leather jackets and dark sunglasses as they smile and great passers-by. You'll love this sequence.

Enter Elfman. After having moved out of the neighborhood at age 13, the alluring Elfman becomes hesitantly pursued by our two holy men - in a lightly romantic-comedic, yet forbidden kind of way. Keeping the FaithThis is where the doubt slips in. The three are great performers, but there's an ever-so subtle chemistry imbalance. The rapport between Norton and Stiller is so fresh and exciting and honest - the film slides a baby step backwards in focusing on Elfman and lover. The trio tangos for position, juggling dedication with desire and comedy. Don't get me wrong, it's still entertaining ... it's just that the meaty original story of the hip rabbi and priest simmers on the back burner as the soapy love triangle bit occupies the screen. Norton's character puts it aptly, "I feel like I'm in a Spelling TV series ... 'Melrose Priest.'"

Notable other points of remark: The opening five minutes is flatly lame (but is over soon enough). Norton does a great Rainman impersonation. In smaller roles, Milos Forman is awesome as elder confidant to Stiller, while Don the Karaoke salesguy (Ken Leung) is over-the-top hilarious, stealing the screen from the two top names in his brief appearance as he nails down one of the films funniest, most memorable moments. I predict we'll see more of him in the future.

Just a popcorn kernel short of an "A-", you won't have a bad time, but you probably won't remember this film past Easter/Passover either.

  • Keeping the Faith. Copyright © 2000. Rated PG-13.
  • Starring Ben Stiller, Edward Norton, Jenna Elfman, Anne Bancroft, Eli Wallach, Ron Rifkin, Milos Forman, Holland Taylor, Lisa Edelstein, Rena Sofer and Ken Leung.
  • Directed by Edward Norton.
  • Written by Stuart Blumberg.
  • Produced by Hawk Koch, Edward Norton and Stuart Blumberg at Touchstone/Spyglass.


Copyright © 2000. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit:

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:06:16 PDT