Keeping The Faith

Keeping The Faith (2000)
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Cast: Edward Norton, Ben Stiller, Jenna Elfman
Extras: Commentary Track, Deleted Scenes, Cast and Crew Bios, Gag Reel, Theatrical Trailer

Math doesn’t work in Hollywood the way that it does in the rest of the world. For example, you’d think that Edward Norton + Ben Stiller starring in a film + Norton’s directing debut would equal a great movie. Unfortunately, it only equals a mediocre movie. Stiller and Norton star as life-long friends Jake and Brian. With both having an interest in religion, Jake becomes a rabbi and Brian a priest. They both are assigned to posts in their New York neighborhood and soon begin doing the Lord’s work. All is well, until childhood friend Anna (Jenna Elfman) comes to town. Whereas Anna had been a tomboy in their youth, she has now blossomed into a full-grown woman, and Jake and Brian are instantly attracted to her. This creates several problems. Not only does it cause a rift between Jake and Brian, Brian’s vows prevent him from having a relationship with Anna.

The problem with ’Keeping the Faith’ is that it tries to do too much and being over two hours, is too long. When the film focuses on Jake and Brian’s work in the community and Jake’s dating misadventures, it works and some of these scenes are hilarious. Once Anna arrives and the jealousy begins, ’Keeping the Faith’ falls apart and becomes very hackneyed. Of course, Norton and Stiller are wonderful together and it the film had been solely about them, it would have been much better. Norton shows little visual flair in his directorial debut, keeping things simple and neat.

The DVD of ’Keeping the Faith’ comes to us from Buena Vista Home Video and does a fine job of presenting the film. We have the movie in a letterboxed format (1.85:1) which has been enhanced for 16×9 TVs. The picture is very sharp and clear, showing no defects on the source print or grain. The colors are very well balanced, and given the natural shooting style of the film, the tones all appear very realistic. The framing of the picture appears to be accurate and the image does not suffer from any artifacting or compression problems. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack on the DVD sounds very good, offering clean and clear dialogue and giving a nice presentation to the score by Elmer Bernstein. There isn’t a great deal of surround sound action, so we don’t have the soundfield which has been present on several recent Buena Vista releases.

Of the special features on the DVD, we start with the audio commentary, featuring Edward Norton and writer/producer Stuart Blumberg. The duo are actually old friends in real life, so the commentary has a very warm and laid-back feel to it. Both speakers are very familiar with the locations in the film, so we get a well-rounded commentary where Norton and Blumberg talk knowledgeably about the story, the actors, the making of the film, and the locations. My only complaint about the commentary is that it’s a little too laid-back and could have used some spontaneity. We also have ten deleted scenes, which can be viewed with or without audio commentary by Norton and Blumberg. The majority of these scenes are useless, but a couple of them have some laughs. There is also a very entertaining gag reel that runs for nearly ten minutes, the theatrical trailer for the film, and extensive cast and crew bios. ’Keeping the Faith’ isn’t a total waste of time, but given the amount of talent involved, it could have added up to more.