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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Movie has some good things to say about importance of maintaining tradition ("it's comforting to people") while trying to connect to people in changing times. Thoughtful explorations of faith that aren't common in a lighthearted romcom.
Positive Role Models
Main characters speak with nostalgia about their eighth grade "shoplifting club" and joke about stealing, saying "it was the '80s, you could get away with anything." Toxic behavior from a main character who kisses a woman three times while talking nonstop despite her stiff body language. When she finally gets him to listen to her and reveals she's dating someone, he gets upset and yells at her. Anna could have been a positive role model given her high-powered job and respect from colleagues, but her story arc suggests she's unhappy for being too ambitious, which is a cliché.
Main characters include a Catholic priest and Jewish rabbi who are best friends. With their relationship come thoughtful explorations of faith, examples of traditions and beliefs, etc., not common in a lighthearted romcom. A high-powered woman is depicted as capable, smart but also falls into stereotypical plot of discovering that she needs to be less ambitious -- and in a relationship with a man -- to be happy. Movie also employs sexist "not like other girls" setup, which paints most women as silly or unintelligent. (Brian literally says about Anna, "she's not like other girls" -- implying that most women are terrible.) Underrepresented characters appear in minor roles. Some avoid stereotypes, such as Paulie Chopra, owner of an Irish bar who describes himself as "half Punjabi-Sikh, a quarter Tamil separatist" and has Irish ancestry. Brian's Catholic congregation includes Latino and Asian people, including a kid he speaks with in Spanish. A cheerful group of people wearing drag can be seen on the street -- a brief inclusion that feels normalizing. But a few examples feel clichéd -- e.g., Black basketball players, Harlem gospel choir, and passing mention of taking up "Native American drumming" are all used to make White characters seem more interesting. A cringeworthy scene involves an East Asian store clerk using a thick accent to introduce himself as "Don" (sounds like "dong") before dropping the act to speak with his natural American accent. The scene isn't offensive, but there's no reason for it to exist, and it stamps the film with an unshakable White gaze. Also, casual fatphobia goes without critique: A woman jokes that her son had to miss school as a kid because he "couldn't fit into any of his pants and had to call in fat."
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Violence & Scariness
One main character punches the other in the face. Yelling. In a comedic scene, a priest's robes catch fire (it's quickly put out).
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Multiple sex scenes without nudity (woman in bra and skirt; man in boxers). In a fantasy sequence, a man helps a woman stretch, and she groans in encouragement before he rips her blouse open to reveal a bra. Drawing of breasts briefly on-screen. A kid describes adult women as having "a nice rack" or "a nice ass." A woman pulls up her dress hem to reveal a cell phone strapped to her thigh; a man calls it "sexy."
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Cries of alarm using "holy s--t" and "Jesus." Racist terms "mick" and "yid" used affectionately between main characters. Ableist term "the mentally retarded" used by a minor character who's shown in a negative light. Sex-related language includes "balls haven't dropped yet" and "piece of ass," plus Spanish phrases "melones" and "culo" (subtitled in English as "rack" and "ass").
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Products & Purchases
Main character wears and mentions Kenneth Cole shoes and drinks Tullamore D.E.W. whiskey at a bar (label visible). ABC network and McDonald's are mentioned.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Main character gets drunk to soothe heartache, behaves boorishly while wearing priest collar. When main characters talk about former classmates, they mention someone who was "always smoking pot." A main character says they quit smoking. Characters drink wine and beer at a party and take shots. In a long scene, a minor character smokes a cigar with relish.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that the romcom Keeping the Faith may follow a Catholic priest and a Jewish rabbi -- best friends Brian (Edward Norton) and Jake (Ben Stiller), respectively -- but, godliness aside, Brian and Jake aren't the best role models. They look back fondly on their eighth grade "shoplifting club" and respond to heartbreak by getting very drunk and behaving boorishly, and one of them kisses a woman multiple times without her consent -- then yells at her when she doesn't reciprocate his feelings. Couples have sex (no nudity), and a kid refers to women as having "a nice rack" or "a nice ass." Other language includes exclamations of "holy s--t" and "Jesus," racist terms "mick" and "yid" used affectionately between characters, and the ableist phrase "the mentally retarded." Diversity can be found among minor characters; some depictions are shallow but positive, while others are cringey. But watch out for poor gender representation: Women are shown as silly and unintelligent except for the love interest, Anna (Jenna Elfman), a whip-smart corporate executive whose cautionary tale of being an overly ambitious woman feels sorely outdated. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This romantic comedy is witty, funny, and sweet, but it does show its age where the female lead is concerned. At its best, Keeping the Faith sheds light on Catholic and Jewish customs, poking fun while staying respectful: The faith of its two lead characters are never in doubt while viewers get to laugh with Jake and Brian as they struggle to live up to their ideals. Amid a classic romantic triangle, the movie has some good things to say about the importance of maintaining tradition ("it's comforting to people") while trying to connect to people in changing times.
The cast is great. If Norton and Stiller really were a priest and a rabbi, there's no doubt they'd invoke the excitement shown by mass and synagogue attendees in the film. Anne Bancroft is terrific as Jake's mother. But dated aspects of the movie bring down the enjoyment level, especially the sexist story arc for Anna who needs to overcome her "flaw" of being too ambitious (and too single). Families who do watch together should take this as an opportunity to discuss their own views of religion and interfaith relationships.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.