Like Adam Sandler, Ed Burns is fixated on men who can’t grow up, but Sandler mines this immature terrain for ribald laughs where Burns tackles stunted adolescence through the filter of mushy seriocomic melodrama. With The Groomsmen, Burns deliberately strives to capture the blend of boy’s-boy humor and testosterone-tinged sappiness that powered his breakout The Brothers McMullen, focusing on the travails of thirtysomething Long Island friends struggling to act their age on the eve of Paulie’s (Burns) wedding to pregnant fiancé Sue (Brittany Murphy). It’s an enterprise that—besides confirming Burns’s own arrested development as a storyteller—mainly reaps embarrassingly familiar results, the film a creaky male weepy in which guys are emotionally reticent yet deep-down sensitive, women are loyal but constant nags, and most relationship-related problems can be solved with some tearful hugging and kissing. The daunting responsibilities of marriage and parenthood are what trouble Burns’s rudimentary characters, all of whom—whether it be emasculated, strip-club-frequenting big brother Jimbo (Donal Logue), family man Dez (Matthew Lillard), or adolescent cousin Mike (Jay Mohr)—are united, despite various successes in life and love, by their juvenile impulses. The men’s maturation into responsible adults involves a combination of earnest heart-to-hearts (including a surprisingly affecting soliloquy about paternity by Lillard), a few scuffles, and plenty of alcohol, with Burns romanticizing the camaraderie of his buffoonish protagonists with inelegant crane shots and camera pull backs, as well as celebrating their tolerance via each’s compassionate reaction to estranged gay pal T.C.‘s (John Leguizamo) coming-out revelation. As with his ridiculous cry of “gay pride!” right before T.C. confronts his small-minded father, Mohr’s childish loudmouth occasionally offers relief from both the film’s intense earnestness and leading man Burns’s bland, one-expression-fits-all presence. Generally, though, there’s little respite from the bargain-bin cheesiness of The Groomsmen, the type of unintentionally goofy schmaltzfest that has Mike, with an oddly straight face, sing along to “Only The Lonely” because he’s, you know, lonely.
- Edward Burns
- Edward Burns
- Edward Burns, Brittany Murphy, Donal Logue, John Leguizamo, Matthew Lillard, Jay Mohr
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: