If you're a fan of hyphenate (in this case,
actor-writer-director-co-producer) Edward Burns ("The Brothers
McMullen"), then you may view "Sidewalks of New York" as his tribute to
the kind of neurotic multirelationship romantic comedies Woody Allen
used to make. And if you see Burns as an overrated, whiny frat boy with
delusions of grandeur, then you likely will dismiss "Sidewalks of New
York" as little more than an occasionally amusing, often maddening
rip-off of the old Allen films.
For years, NBC has insisted on taking the highly coveted 8:30-9 P.M.
time slot on Thursday evenings and stuffing it with anemic sitcoms like
"Suddenly Susan," "Jesse" and "Inside Schwartz." Imagine one of those
shows, only three times as long, and you'll know what to expect here.
As a framing device, Burns inserts a documentary film crew that pops up
every so often to individually interview all of the principal
characters. These people aren't shy. The first interview is preceded
with the warning, "Some of these questions are personal and some relate
to sex. So how old were you when you lost your virginity?"
Who are these guys? Burns apparently wants us to accept them as real,
since he frequently shows us the view through their shaky camera lens
and periodically has young men pop up in the background to harass the
crew. So how is it that they happen to interview every key cast member?
Are the documentary makers psychic? And why, later in the story, do the
interviews move from the streets to the inside of the characters' homes?
Clearly, these men are stalkers. Psychic, documentary-making stalkers.
Aliens too, I bet.
They probably make crop circles on the weekends.
As for the story, the interpersonal dynamics work like this:
All-American boy Tommy (Burns) gets dumped by his girlfriend Sue (Callie
Thorne). He goes to his lounge lizard mentor Carpo (Dennis Farina) for
advice and is told to wear cologne on his balls because "chicks dig it."
Tommy tests the theory when he picks up Maria (Rosario Dawson) at a
video store. Maria has troubles as well - her ex-husband Benny (David
Krumholtz, veteran of at least one NBC Thursday night sitcom) follows
her around trying to play songs on his guitar.
Benny also has a crush on 19-year-old Iowa transplant Ashley (Brittany
Murphy), who is dating a smarmy married dentist named Griffin (Stanley
Tucci). Griffin's jittery wife Annie (Heather Graham) is a realtor who
shows an apartment to Tommy, which sends another plotline looping into a
comedic black hole. From all that excess emerges a few good lines, lots
of moaning and performances that range from serviceable to beyond
embarrassing. Dennis Farina, what were you thinking? Whatever possessed
a character actor of your skill to play a grating buffoon? Did the
psychic, crop circle making alien stalkers do something to your brain?
That could explain everything. Maybe they got into the brains of the
whole cast and made them fall for this drivel. Or, maybe Edward Burns IS
a genius and they got into my brain and convinced me that he is a
Damn those aliens!
Copyright © 2001 Edward Johnson-Ott