The Groomsmen looks wrong. The film doesn’t have any grain and the lighting suggests it’s shot on some kind of DV (it isn’t). Everything is very controlled–a bright outdoor scene doesn’t seem bright in Groomsmen, it seems like the color has been toned down so as not to offend. It looks like a Mentos commercial really, and that defect doesn’t make any sense. Burns has made films for quite a while now. There’s no excuse. Unless the DVD transfer is just a disaster or something.
It doesn’t help Burns coasts through The Groomsmen in every way possible. I kept waiting for some great shots, but there was literally only one. A very steady Steadicam tracking shot. Every other shot in the film was generic and felt like Burns wasn’t even paying attention when he was setting it up. The film’s got a gradual build-up, so I gave him some benefit of the doubt–and then tracking shot reassured me–but then nothing else ever appeared. But he’s also disconnected with the picture as a writer and actor as well.
The Groomsmen is chock full of characters–Burns, brother Donal Logue, cousin Jay Mohr and friends Matthew Lillard and John Leguizamo. All of them have a subplot going on except Lillard, who owns the bar and is happily married with a couple kids. I assume his subplot is supposed to be the missed high school glory days, but it really isn’t. Lillard’s character is too well-adjusted. Lillard might give the film’s best performance, it’s either him or Logue. While Lillard was flawless, I never thought Logue would be capable of giving such a nuanced, haunted performance.
Burns is able–as a writer–to not give himself many scenes as an actor and he doesn’t. His subplot, ostensibly the main plot, is boring. His absence is almost immediate, which made me think he was going to use the time to concentrate on the film’s direction. He doesn’t. The direction shows a shocking lack of attention and there’s certainly nothing innovative.
There is some funny stuff in the script, but it feels undercooked, like Burns produced an unfinished draft. Too many characters to follow, some conversations too loose, the sort of things he should have cleared up. Mohr’s essentially playing an idiot–he’s the comic relief–and it’s fine. Leguizamo’s good. Burns is clearly an acting piker here, but Heather Burns (I don’t think she’s a relation) is good as Logue’s wife. Brittany Murphy, as Burns’s fiancée, is fine. He keeps the women, with one exception, at home and it hurts the film. The characters start in situations Burns can never make reasonable. They just seem silly.
But the main, male characters don’t even go through interesting arcs. Nothing in the running time should bring any eureka moments for these guys, it’s all stuff they could have hashed out in the first five minutes. Burns feels like he’s got a collection of notecards with pat movie psychoses and he’s assigning them one by one. It’s a shame, since he certainly didn’t start out this way.
The Groomsmen isn’t terrible by any means, but it’s exceptionally disappointing.