Summer Catch

on August 24, 2001 by Bridget Byrne
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   Yet another example of Hollywood's seemingly indefatigable addiction to baseball-themed movies--even though few play well or pay off--"Summer Catch" doesn't even rate as minor league. This movie is a dropped fly ball, a missed tag, a foul bunt. It's almost any botched play analogy you can think of, though never exciting enough to be compared to a strike-out or even to a wild pitch. The cliché-riddled script is falsely sentimental about baseball, hopelessly off the mark about true love and woefully out of touch with any known truth. Tollin's direction finds no drama in the storyline, no chemistry in the romance, no beauty in the game. That said, it's also extremely dull; better a meaningless twilight game late in the season with no hope of a pennant rather than time spent sitting through this dud.

   A weakly delineated poor-boy-rich-girl romance set against the backdrop of summer league ball, the script hands its good-looking leads only silhouettes to fill. Freddie Prinze Jr. and Jessica Biel as Ryan and Tenley are pretty, but that's all. Their cute mannerisms--particularly Prinze's eye-rounding focus when stuff is meant to matter--soon wear thin. Even the seasoned pros can't overcome the lame dialogue that talks of feelings never realized and piles on motivation explanations like saccharine sprinkles on a soggy sponge cake. Brian Dennehy and Fred Ward sidestep the pitfalls of the equally poorly sketched coach and Ryan's hard-done-by gardener dad--Dennehy doesn't rant like the typical diamond boss; Ward has the innate complexity to match his weathered looks--but Bruce Davison is stuck with absurd moments as Tenley's snobby dad, and too few of them to have any hope of finding any truth in a dissatisfaction about his daughter's romance with "the lawn boy." (Hey, if the lad's really that good a lefty pitcher, he'll be worth millions two summers from now!) Problem is, it's not possible to believe Prinze can really throw a fastball well enough to make it out of the dogpatch.

   The backup cast of Ryan's hometown pals and teammates are stuck with lame jock humor--most of it crudely sexual--and bad attitudes to women. It's tasteless and embarrassing and counterproductive to true romance, which might have been at the heart of the story if only we'd been able to witness just one little flicker of passion between the leads. Starring Freddie Prinze Jr., Jessica Biel, Fred Ward, Jason Gedrick, Matthew Lillard, Bruce Davison and Brian Dennehy. Directed by Mike Tollin. Written by Kevin Falls and John Gatins. Produced by Mike Tollin, Brian Robbins and Sam Weisman. A Warner Bros. Pictures release. Romantic drama. Rated PG-13 for sexual content, language and some drinking. Running time: 108 min

Tags: Starring Freddie Prinze Jr., Jessica Biel, Fred Ward, Jason Gedrick, Matthew Lillard, Bruce Davison, Brian Dennehy. Directed by Mike Tollin. Written by Kevin Falls and John Gatins, Produced by Mike Tollin, Brian Robbins, Sam Weisman, Warner Bros, Romantic drama
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