Dir/scr: Edward Burns. US. 2006. 93mins
Edward Burns delivers anotherbitter-sweet romantic comedy with TheGroomsmen - but whatever freshness marked him out as a promising newcomerin The Brothers McCullen(1995) seems to have pretty much evaporated by now.

What's left is anotherroutine job relying on well-established formulae, with Burns again taking leadrole and embarking on yet another light-hearted affair. Again the theme is thedifficulties of the average American male in growing up,juxtaposed with how beguiling he can be even when at his objectionable worst.

This time the focus is on a thirtysomething's last few days of celibacy, which hespends mostly in the company of those friends appointed to be groomsmen at hiswedding.

Confronting something betweenadolescent angst and maturity pains, Burns' new opus is a pedestrian effort, ifpleasant to look at. But while it is slick enough to qualify for wide arthouse distribution, especially at home,it is too thin and predictable to travel far before reaching the small screen.The film premiered at Tribeca (Spotlight).

As bachelor parties go, theone featured in The Groomsmen iscertainly not the worst in film history, although it cannot really hold acandle to the likes of the Delbert Mann/Paddy Chayefskyclassic Bachelor Party (1957) nor,for that matter, Fellini's I Vitelloni (1953), which Burns claims ashis inspiration here.

Lacking the real anguishwhich distinguished the first or the rich visual and poetical imagination ofthe second, The Groomsmen plays itsafe, alternating between smiles and crises which are solved quickly andpainlessly.

In a few days, Paulie (Burns) will be marrying his visibly pregnant fiancee Sue (Murphy), with who he has been living for awhile. Both are tense, hardly helped by Paulie'sdecision to ask his long-time chums to serve as his groomsmen.

The groom and friends gamboltogether on the eve of the wedding, taking the future husband away from hisimmediate duties at home while reminding him of the freedom he is about tolose.

As usually happen on suchoccasions, the insouciance of the men's early drinking soon wears off and thepersonal life of each comes to the fore.

Paulie's brother, Jimbo (Logue)loses one job after another and his marriage is on the rocks for good reasonsthat will be revealed eventually. His cousin Mike (Mohr), blatantly immature,still lives at home and cannot get over his last affair, which ended indisaster. TC (Leguizamo), who left mysteriously eightyears ago, returns to explain that he feared his friends would not accept hishomosexuality.

At least Dez(Lillard), married with two kids and a regular at theneighbourhood bar, seems to have no problems. But his obsession with reviving,at least for the wedding, the gang's high-school band, hints that he too hasfailed to make the transition into adulthood.

Thus the guys fool around,fight and make up; guilty little secrets come out, one by one, yet there is nota mean bone to share between the gang.

Shot in City Garden, nearNew York, The Groomsmen is agood-natured romp. The thinness of the material shows here and there, but anyproblems are soon melted by its warm embrace.

Performances are deliveredin the same spirit, as if the actors realise they should not worry too much,for the script will take care of any problems that may arise.

Jay Mohr exerts himselfbeyond the line of duty as the comic relief; DonalLogue adds a touch of gruff and frustration; John Leguizamois comically tense in his concern for his sexuality (that ultimately shocksnobody); and Matthew Lillard's relaxed presence calmseverybody down whenever matters verge on the unpleasant.

And Edward Burns himself' Adecade or so ago he was regarded as a possible suburban answer to Woody Allen,albeit younger and better looking. But while he is certainly more handsome thanhis model, it is not quite enough.

Production companies
Bauer Martinez Entertainment
Marlboro Road Gang Productions

International sales
Bauer Martinez Entertainment

Margot Bridger
Alan Latham
Philip Martinez
Aaron Lubin

Edward Burns

Wiliam Rexer II

Jamie Kirkpatrick

Production design
Dina Goldman

Robert Gary
PT Walkley

Main cast
Edward Burns
Britanny Murphy
John Leguizamo
Jay Mohr
Matthew Lillard
Donal Logue
Jessica Capshaw
Heather Burns