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American Idol Season 4:
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. "The Groomsmen"

Edward Burns, filmmaker, should have quit while he was ahead. But, if you're too strict about that advice, he might not have worked much since his first film, "The Brothers McMullen," which he hasn't topped. In this unfortunately thin and weakly conceived scenario about male bonding juvenilia he shows effort in devising his ensemble of character parts, but his choices are about as attractive as the fraternity mentality he uses as a basis for situational comedy. Its vision is so dark and superficial, it comes out more as a display of male emptiness than a fun buddy movie.

His own role (yes, he acts in his films), Paulie, is a guy whose girl friend (Brittany Murphy, "8 Mile") is pregnant. He agreed to marriage, but his mind is still primarily in the fulfilling companionship of his boyhood buddies, all of whom have been frozen like mammoths in polar ice as far as maturity goes. He sure hasn't given any signs that he's ready for the impending realities or thinks much about the new mother's needs.

Combined, his group is a team of adult retards stuck in the social dispositions of their childhood. One can't accept divorce (Jay Mohr, "Seeing Other People"); another can't accept a physical limitation (Donal Logue, "The Tao of Steve"); one can't accept not re-forming a childhood band; and one more ran away 8 years ago because he couldn't face his pals' scorn over his sexual preference (John Leguizamo, "Land of the Dead"). As for Paulie himself, he simply can't get his care-free mind around the concept of husband and father.

Burns' concept is a study in the kind of angst that develops in men in their thirties faced with issues that are a little over their juvenile mindset, and which are beyond their ability to confront, let alone cope. They resort to their island of brotherhood and cameraderie for comfort and understanding like they've always done -- children seeking affirmation from buddies. But avoidance and denial mucks up the issues that have to be dealt with and, by the time a whisper of change is wrought in any of them, it's far too late to relate.

The wedding may not be headed for the rocks, but it's headed for the shoals of criticism where sharp edges are waiting to cut this shallow male bonding romp to the shreds it calls for.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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