September 02, 1996 12:00 PM

Edward Burns, Jennifer Aniston, Maxine Bahns, Mike McGlone

When the Fitzpatrick boys go fishing with their father, a Saturday ritual they have followed for years, they sail Brooklyn’s briny seas in a boat called The Fighting Fitzpatricks. That could just as easily be the title of this movie, an engagingly talky romantic comedy about how the Fitzpatrick brothers (Burns and McGlone) and their pop (Frasier’s John Mahoney) learn that machismo’s rules are not inviolable: A man doesn’t always have to do what a man’s gotta do.

The brothers, a year apart, could hardly be more different. Cab driver Burns, the elder, is still lost in emotional traffic after coming home three years previously to find his fiancée (Cameron Diaz) entwined with another man. McGlone is a Wall Street hotshot with a big salary, a loft apartment and a spirited wife (Friends’ Aniston, who seems more diminutive here). Each sibling, though, has a reckless side. Burns marries a graduate student-waitress (Bahns) just 24 hours after she hails his cab. McGlone cheats on Aniston with Diaz, meanwhile fending off his wife’s sexual entreaties by telling her he’s going through “a down cycle.”

How these two brothers resolve their love lives makes for a smart, well-acted second offering by actor-writer-director Burns, whose first film was the similar-themed The Brothers McMullen. True, Burns’s women don’t have the same verve as his men (which is why, with the exception of Diaz, the male stars come off better here) and in focusing on working-class Irish-Catholic New Yorkers, he’s mowing a narrow path. But Woody Allen has gone pretty far doing the same with intellectual Jewish New Yorkers, and considering Burns’s amusing dialogue and his own whiny, high-pitched delivery and straight-from-Noo-Yawk accent, the comparison isn’t really all that far off. (R)

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