There's good news and bad news about Edward Burns' sophomore flick, "She's the One" — which is funny and charming in places, but also redundant and crass.
Like his freshman effort, "The Brothers McMullen," "She's the One" is an airy romantic comedy with loads of humorous quips from a bevy of interesting characters. And Burns has taken full advantage of studio financing to make this one a more professional and technically proficient outing.
But "She's the One" also is awfully talky, repeating its themes a bit too often. And it suffers from that common '90s problem of confusing "crass" with "hip." Having the characters constantly swearing and cracking vulgar jokes does not a sophisticated movie make. (Nor does smoking, which everyone here seems to be doing all the time.)
Still, there's a sweetness to much of the proceedings, quite a few funny gags and a couple of excellent performances to drive the film along.
Burns, who wrote, directed and co-produced, also takes the nominal lead role in this ensemble effort, playing Mickey Fitzpatrick, who has been down on his luck ever since he broke up with his fiance, Heather (Cameron Diaz) — and that was three years ago. After finding her with another man, he hit the road and bummed around the country, but now he's back home, driving a cab in Brooklyn.
Meanwhile, Mickey's self-absorbed brother Francis (Mike McGlone), an uptight Wall Street yuppie, is ignoring his wife Rene (Jennifer Aniston), and it isn't long before we learn that he's been stepping out on her — with none other than Heather.
Then there's Mickey and Francis' blue-collar, know-it-all father (John Mahoney), who dispenses chauvinistic marital advice as he takes his sons out fishing on his boat — tellingly named "The Fighting Fitzpatricks."
But the conflicts really kick into gear after Mickey marries Hope (Maxine Bahns), whom he has known for only 24 hours (he picks her up in his cab, and she impetuously suggests that he drive her from Brooklyn to New Orleans for a friend's wedding).
Throughout the film there is the expected between one and all, especially when Mickey meets Heather again and his old feelings for her begin to stir. And he's not too happy when he eventually discovers that Francis is pursuing her. If that's not enough, Mickey and Francis discover that their parents' marriage isn't all they thought it was, either.
Who'll break up and who'll stay together? That, of course, is the name of the game.
Burns is a pleasant lead player, low-key, dry and amusing, and his "Brothers McMullen" co-stars Mike McGlone and Maxine Bahns are also competent in their respective roles. Better, however, are Diaz, lending charm to a character who could have been quite unsympathetic, and especially Aniston, whose decent, trusting character is quite appealing. Best of all, however, is John Mahoney, hilarious as the bombastic patriarch of the Fitzpatrick clan, who refers to his sons as "sisters" and calls them "Barbara" or "Dorothy" while offering ill-advised sarcasm in place of fatherly wisdom.
A favorite line comes after Dad has chided one of his sons for knocking Catholicism. The son says, "You don't even believe in God!" To which his father shoots back, "That doesn't mean I've stopped being a good Catholic!"
As with his first film, Burns' writing here is crisp and witty, and the dialogue is laced with a variety of good-natured insults and withering zingers. (Too bad it's also spiced up with fairly constant profanity and vulgarity. And, c'mon now, does Burns really think older parents and their adult children talk about their sex lives this way?)
And there is a terrific running gag, wherein Francis occasionally asks his older limo driver intimate questions, to which the driver responds with a smile and an extremely pleasant put-down.
The film does get sluggish in the second half, however, and even at a brief 96 minutes feels too long.
One thing's for sure — Burns has already developed a genuine commercial sense. Putting Jennifer Aniston, of the hit television sitcom "Friends," in his cast was a stroke of genius . . . almost as good as having Tom Petty do the film's soundtrack.
"She's the One" is rated R for profanity and profanity, along with a brief sex scene and a brief scene of comic violence.