By this point in his filmography, viewers are likely expecting that Ed Burns could continue putting out films like Looking for Kitty every year or two from now until the end of time with very little effort expended. Slight variations on his same old-school stand-up guy persona are to be expected, none deviating too far from the norm (we will never see Burns play a straight villain in any of his work), while the setting will invariably be New York. A few jokes will be sprinkled in among the soured-love plot, and the only drama will come from whether or not Burns decides to go with a happy ending on this one. Even Woody Allen has varied his career more than this.

Looking for Kitty has Burns putting himself a little off-center at first, seemingly handing the reins of the movie over to his co-star David Krumholtz, who gets the bulk of the film's attention at first before it starts drifting back to its director and star. Krumholtz plays Abe, a short, comically mustachioed and borderline-obsessive school baseball coach from upstate who comes down to Manhattan to find his wife Kitty, who took a powder six months ago but had recently been spotted at a celebrity party in the city photographed by paparazzi. Krumholtz, the very appealing co-star of CBS' "Numb3rs," doesn't normally get cast for comedy, which is a shame, given his obvious gift for playing the straight man, displayed excellently here and in Burns' scattershot Sidewalks of New York. His face is a curiously clueless mask behind the mustache, as this hermetic small-town guy (so closed off he's never even tried Chinese food, claiming to only like "American cuisine") tries to keep his bearings amidst the tumult of New York.

Abe's guide to the city is, of course, Burns--aka Mr. New York. He plays Jake, a crusty private investigator with so few people skills he refuses to eat in restaurants where other people can watch him ("I became a private investigator because I liked the private part"), ribs Abe whenever possible, and only grudgingly allows him along on his search for Kitty after Abe ponies up an extra five hundred dollars. It's a desultory kind of investigation, with Jake taking his time following up on some extremely easy leads which could be better checked out online, but as he says, "I work the old-fashioned way, the way Bogie would have done it." In between trying to get Abe to realize that he might actually be better off without Kitty, Abe lectures him on New York architectural history, pointing out old-time buildings that have successfully withstood encroachment by Trump-esque skyscraper magnates. Jake also nurses the wounds of a dead wife, and secretly longs for the distant-acting blonde across the hall.

If this all sounds a bit much, it definitely is, and so all the better when Burns pulls back from the search for Kitty. There are a few funny scenes where Abe keeps bumping into an exuberantly drunk tourist played with goony charm by Rachel Dratch, and a number of touchingly wistful moments sprinkled elsewhere throughout this grey, wintry work. Burns and Krumholtz make for a charming pair of lovelorn loners, but there's no escaping the almost intentionally unexciting and unabsorbing nature of this work. Working with an air of loose detachment that's mindful of a French director who keeps churning out one lightly written and inconsequential film after another, Burns seems not nearly as engaged with his story as one would hope. And why should he be? He could write another like this before lunch.