Picks and Pans Review: The Brothers Mcmullen

UPDATED 08/28/1995 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 08/28/1995 at 01:00 AM EDT

Edward Burns, Mike McGlone, Jack Mulcahy, Maxine Bahns

As talky and crisis-laden as a soap opera but appealingly offbeat, this is a modest little drama. While it breaks no new ground, it could be a nice change of pace for action-sated moviegoers.

Burns produced, directed and wrote the film. He costars as one of three brothers, from New York's Long Island, who have in common a loathing of their late alcoholic father, little ambition and an abject inability to deal with women.

The two younger brothers, Burns and McGlone, fresh from soured affairs, move in with older brother Mulcahy just as his marriage starts to founder. As all three young men wrestle with relationship problems, Burns spends a lot of time blaming the Catholic church for the McMullens' problems. Things get so bad that when McGlone tells him God frowns on adultery, Mulcahy snarls, "F—k God!" That's about as close as things get to serious content.

The movie is not helped by Burns's flimsy female characters, who are either sexual predators or pitiably malleable. Exemplifying the former, Elizabeth P. McKay won't let her lover use the phrase "make love," insisting he say "do it" instead. And the comely Bahns, as the actress girlfriend of would-be filmmaker Burns, seems to vacillate between weird coquetry and helpless dependence. (Like the rest of the cast, Bahns is an unfamiliar face, though the principals are all likable enough to stay basically sympathetic.)

Everyone agonizes relentlessly without seeming to grow in any real way until—shazam!—all the problems are summarily bagged. It's hardly real life, but then nobody ever said soap operas had to be plausible. (R)

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