Sidewalks of New York

on November 23, 2001 by Michael Tunison
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   Edward Burns' fourth outing as a writer-director-producer-star is neither his freshest nor his funniest, but the ensemble sex comedy "Sidewalks of New York" gets the job done in the same amiable, hard-to-dislike manner as his previous "The Brothers McMullen" and "She's the One." While "Sidewalks" lacks the overall punch to knock it up there with the best work of Burns' obvious model, Woody Allen, it scores enough zingers about love and its angst-ridden victims to provide a diverting excursion for those so inclined.

   After an unsuccessful detour into drama with 1998's "No Looking Back," Burns is back on more familiar ground with the intersecting stories of several Manhattanites struggling with libidos that don't always respect the strict boundaries of fidelity. Kicked out of his girlfriend's apartment, a successful young TV producer (Burns) finds himself attracted to both his married real estate agent ("Say it Isn't So's" Heather Graham) and a divorced schoolteacher (Rosario Dawson from "Josie and the Pussycats"). Meanwhile, the teacher's hotel doorman ex ("The Mexican's" David Krumholtz) moves in on a coffee shop waitress ("Girl, Interrupted's" Brittany Murphy) who happens to be dragging out an unhappy affair with the real estate agent's conniving dentist husband (edgy character specialist Stanley Tucci from "Big Night").

   Bouncing between seriocomic romantic encounters, faux documentary interviews and the requisite gab sessions with the lovers' respective best friends/confessors, Burns delves into the difficulty of maintaining relationships in an imperfect world where passion cools, partners keep secrets from one another and reality rarely lives up to dreams. While it has fewer truly inspired bits than his earlier comedies, "Sidewalks" partially makes up for this fact with resonant touches of melancholy and a more complex view of romance and commitment that shows Burns' increasing maturity as an observer of human foibles. It's no "Manhattan," but then again neither are Allen's recent films. Starring Edward Burns, Heather Graham, Stanley Tucci, Brittany Murphy, Rosario Dawson, David Krumholtz and Dennis Farina. Directed and written by Edward Burns. Produced by Margot Bridger, Edward Burns, Cathy Schulman and Rick Yorn. A Paramount Classics release. Comedy. Rated R for sexual content and language. Running time: 107 min

Tags: Edward Burns, Heather Graham, Stanley Tucci, Brittany Murphy, Rosario Dawson, David Krumholtz, Dennis Farina, Margot Bridger, Cathy Schulman, Rick Yorn, Paramount Classics, Comedy, Manhatten, schoolteacher, coffee shop waitress
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