There's something oddly lovable, if not embarrassingly earnest and overdone, about Edward Burns
' The Groomsmen. It's another in a long line of what has become the reprehensible pre-wedding jitters comedy, but it also doubles as a buddy comedy, the reunion type. Artistic substance? Not here, buddy. Prophetic insight? Wrong door. The Groomsmen revels in its charming simplicity.
Ed Burns, again taking mainstay as actor, director, and writer, plays Paulie, a Long Island worker who is preparing for a wedding and to become a father. His fiancée (Brittany Murphy
) is wondering why he can't be nice to her anymore and he's wondering what he should expect from fatherhood and a wife. His best friend Des (a surprisingly strong Matthew Lillard
) is a father of two and feels it’s the only good thing he's done with his life. His brother Jimbo (Donal Logue
) thinks he's making a huge mistake, and his cousin Mike (Jay Mohr
, doing the lovable idiot routine) just wants to find a girl so he can be like the rest of the guys. Then there's their long lost buddy T.C. (John Leguizamo
) who arrives under hushed circumstances, having not been back in Long Island for a considerable amount of time. Article continues below
From the outside, this sounds like a dud of unspeakable magnitude, and to a certain extent, it is. The language that is used by the characters seems like it was boxed and crated by some Lifetime conglomerate, saying way too much and often casting itself as a tearjerker. T.C.'s secret doesn't have much originality to it, nor does its relationship to him leaving have any real backbone, especially in how it functions in his faltered friendship with Mike.
So, why is this film bearable, if not enjoyable? Besides the fact that most of the actors make the witless dialogue digestible, the film has a distinguishable factor: maturity. Unlike films like American Wedding, the problems that are brought up in the film are things that are actually believable as problems one would have at that age, with these conditions. Jimbo and his wife (Heather Burns
) have a very common, very simple problem that causes Jimbo to act out as he does (attempting to take home strippers, losing jobs because of frustration). T.C.'s problem, though way too easy, does at least secure his wanting to move away from his parents. Des, the one character who seems to be without major incident, deals with smaller, honest things like teaching his kids how to play guitar or attempting to be a good husband and friend. The film has a familiar feel to it, and for the first time in a long time, that is meant as a compliment.
Edward Burns has now directed seven films, and although The Groomsmen doesn't have the wit and family element that The Brothers McMullen and She's the One (still his best film) had, it fits perfectly into his body of work. The Groomsmen seems more at home next to Sidewalks of New York, which is similarly enjoyable but shallow to its core. Burns' films aren't trying to be artistic or even specifically great; they are charismatic and dependent on a feeling of kindred affability. In the end, Burns just wants to make his friends laugh, and you too, if he can. It's not like he's asking you to marry him.