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`Groomsmen' shoot breeze, and little more

July 14, 2006|Gene Seymour | Newsday

The best parts of any Edward Burns movie come when his characters, especially the guys, just kick back and yap away. They could be spinning yarns, as they frequently do in Burns' latest, "The Groomsmen," about childhood slights, real and imagined. They could be doing a can-you-top-this jam session of mutually accepted invective. However you label such blarney, talking junk gives Burns' movies a cozy, lived-in texture. So long as the banter doesn't hit a wall or get too stupid, you could listen to it all night.

Unfortunately for Burns' movies, narrative convention demands that dialogue, no matter how colorful or vivid, must be used to advance some sort of plot. And what that means with Burns' films is the kind of moist-eyed melodrama found most often in what used to be marketed as "women's pictures." Given that Burns' movies often try to deflate street-primitive notions of machismo, this makes for an interesting tension. In theory, anyway.

"The Groomsmen's" setup is so ready-to-wear for Burns' roughneck-weepie aesthetic that you almost think he's used it before. He plays Paulie, a newspaperman living in what looks like the North Shore of Long Island with his pregnant fiancee (Brittany Murphy). His wedding plans involve longtime pals Mike (Jay Mohr), who's living at home with his widower dad; Dez (Matthew Lillard), a family guy who's teaching his sons the rudiments of rock 'n' roll; and T.C. (John Leguizamo), who's been hiding out in Manhattan for years, presumably because he swiped Mike's Tom Seaver rookie card.

Of course, there's more to that latter dust-up than that. Just as there's something buried beneath the prenuptial bile meted out by Paulie's big brother and presumptive best man, Jimbo (Donal Logue). The revelations aren't all that surprising and the build-up isn't all that interesting. At least not as interesting as watching Lillard, of all people, persuasively playing the most evolved and serene of this clique. Or wondering once again when Mohr, one of our best shtick-meisters, is going to get a bigger chance to show off the kind of antic chops he displays here.


`The Groomsmen'

MPAA rating: R for pervasive language and brief nudity

A Bauer Martinez Entertainment release. Writer-Director Ed Burns. Producers Burns, Philippe Martinez, Aaron Lubin, Margot Bridger. Director of photography William Rexer II. Editor Jamie Kirkpatrick. Exclusively at Pacific's Arclight, 6360 W. Sunset Blvd. (at Ivar Avenue) (323) 464-4226; AMC Century City 15, 10250 Santa Monica Blvd. (Westfield Shoppingtown) (310) 289-4262.

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