Ed Burns has two artistic modes of operation: the syrupy rom-com sentimentalist of The Brothers McMullen and She’s the One, and the more somber (though still excessively sappy) dramatist of No Looking Back and, now, Looking for Kitty. Which Burns is preferable likely depends on one’s partiality for corniness or grimness, but the filmmaker’s latest serious venture is nonetheless slightly more tolerable than his recent male-group-hugfest The Groomsmen if only because of its assured portrait of midtown and downtown Manhattan. As a distinctly Irish Catholic New Yawker, Burns is most comfortable working in his hometown, and here his seemingly off-the-cuff on-location cinematography of Times Square and Greenwich Village has a relaxed, lived-in intimacy that lends authenticity to an otherwise rickety fable about personal growth, learning to let go, and similar slushy platitudes.
Peekskill Little League baseball coach Abe (David Krumholtz, sporting a haircut and moustache that make him look like Super Mario) travels to the Big Apple to find his runaway wife Kitty, hiring a private investigator named Jack (Burns) to locate the whereabouts of his spouse and the rock star with whom she may be living. Burns’s screenplay-by-numbers gives each man a couple of telling personality quirks to overcome—the stuck-in-his-ways Abe doesn’t drink coffee or eat “international foods” and the withdrawn, unfriendly Jack only dines outside—while connecting the two via a shared resistance to accepting the loss of a loved one (Jack being a despondent widower).
The latter point is hammered home by Jack’s affinity for old-school buildings (dubbed “classic New York holdouts”) that refused to change with the times and become corporate skyscrapers, but the real holdout is Burns, whose habitual regurgitation of well-trod themes (romantic loss, masculine bonding, and maturation) continues to pay ever-smaller dividends. In an effort to not overwhelmingly sweeten what’s intended to be solemn, Burns ends Looking for Kitty on a reserved note of acquiescence that partially obscures how pathetic Abe’s denial-driven quest has been. After The Groomsmen, however, it’s simply a relief to find the filmmaker concluding things without any sensitive men cathartically crying.