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Keeping the Faith Reviews

Imagine! What could have been a one-joke movie about a rabbi and a Catholic priest in love with the same woman is a very entertaining, hugely neurotic romantic comedy — the kind of thing people used to call a "real New York movie" before Woody Allen poisoned that well with his increasingly sour and mean-spirited films. Best friends since childhood, Jake Schram (Ben Stiller) and Brian Finn (Ed Norton) grew up together on Manhattan's Upper West Side; now Jake is a rising young rabbi at a West End Avenue synagogue, and Brian is a priest at an uptown Catholic church. Each has a freewheeling approach to his faith that doesn't always sit well with their more conservative superiors, who feel their congregants shouldn't be in danger of confusing the sermon with open-mike night at Caroline's comedy club. But Jake and Brian persevere; their mutual dream is to open a karaoke cappuccino bar that will promote interdenominational harmony through shared humiliation. And then in walks Anna Riley (Jenna Elfman), the girl they both adored in grade school, all grown up into a hugely successful businesswoman with a dynamite figure and a bold sense of humor. Romantic sparks fly, and no matter how you cut it, the situation is ripe for disaster: Brian's got that vow of celibacy thing; Jake's mother (Anne Bancroft) hasn't spoken to her other son in two years because he married a Catholic girl, and marrying out of the faith isn't exactly the example a rabbi is expected to set. First-time director Norton is still on a learning curve, but Stuart Blumberg's screenplay is sharp enough to carry him through the rough spots. And the three leads are just terrific: very, very funny without ever sacrificing character for the sake of a gag.