Raised in a Catholic Church that still clings with bloody fingernails to dictates that contradict human nature, the brothers ponder the forbidden sins of premarital sex, birth control, abortion, and masturbation--and then get right on with it.

THE BROTHERS MCMULLEN

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


Sin hangs inevitably and wonderfully over "The Brothers McMullen." Raised in a Catholic Church that still clings with bloody fingernails to dictates that contradict human nature, the brothers ponder the forbidden sins of premarital sex, birth control, abortion, and masturbation--and then get right on with it. The funny bone of this movie is soaked in the guilt each brother carries as he indulges himself.

The three brothers McMullen have been raised by Mom and the Church in the grand tradition of Irish Catholic duality. In a superb opening scene at the graveside of her newly dead husband, Mrs. McMullen announces to her son Barry (Edward Burns) that now that the rotter is dead, she is leaving immediately for Ireland to return to a man she has loved for 35 years.

Perhaps an overdeveloped sense of duty is the only explanation for staying for over three decades with an alcoholic tyrant who abused his family. But stay she did, and she taught her sons about the inconvenient values of duty and fidelity. The opening scene alone is a real winner for Edward Burns, who wrote, directed, and starred in this lively story of young people struggling with falling in love.

The downside to this fine effort includes rough edges and obvious editing, as well as young actors who lapse often into ordinariness, exhausted by their grand effort. If the movie is uneven, it is still a home run for rookie Edward Burns. Burns, Mike McGlone, Jack Mulcahy, and "their women" win credit for a light evening that rivals the rest of the Multiplex summer menu.

Patrick, the dedicated idealist, suffers mightily. "Hey, I don't need any new ideas, I'm confused enough already." Jack, after five years of idyllic marriage to Molly, is still not ready for the children his lovely wife wants. Barry, the writer, flees at the first suggestion of commitment. "I wasn't ready to move out of my dorm," he moans. Lost without a woman, he's angry that they "peel away men's protective coating and then slice them up."

"You can't be a Catholic and have a healthy sex life," and afterward, "I'm going to hell," are pithy comments from young men tussling with churchly teachings and the demands of their modern partners. When Molly says, "We grow accustomed to things and just look right past them," we know it's a concept covered with dust. Women don't look past things so easily anymore.

"There are certain rules, and you gotta live by them," says a brother who knows better. This movie is a playful romp in an Irish Catholic family whose men have an aversion to permanence, a dread at the very thought of not experiencing the wonderful world of women forever. The brothers McMullen have a bucketful of charm and about five years of fidelity for the women they love. All for $20,000. Take that, Hollywood.


Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 485
Studio : Fox Searchlight Pictures
Rating : R
Running Time: 1h37m


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