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Overall Rating

Awesome: 2.04%
Worth A Look: 8.16%
Average: 40.82%
Pretty Bad42.86%
Total Crap: 6.12%

6 reviews, 13 user ratings

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Catch and Release
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by Peter Sobczynski

"If Only The Film Were Half As Captivating As The Star"
2 stars

At times, “Catch and Release” wants to be an inspirational drama about a young woman who is forced to reevaluate her life and her future in the face of tragedy. At other times, it wants to be a standard-issue romantic comedy involving a couple of complete opposites who unexpectedly find themselves drawn to each other. Finally, perhaps as a sop to the males in the audience who have been dragged to the theater by their girlfriends, it also wants to be a quirky indie-style comedy in the vein of the works of Kevin Smith–so much so, in fact, that Smith himself appears in a key supporting role. Watching it is like listening to an iPod stuck permanently on shuffle–some of the individual bits are entertaining enough but anyone looking for a complete and consistent experience is going to come away disappointed.

In her first role since the end of the late, great “Alias,” Jennifer Garner stars as Gray Wheeler, a young woman whose seemingly perfect existence is turned upside down when her fiancee is killed in an accident just before their wedding. Adrift and in a fog inspired by equal parts grief and tranquilizers, she moves in with her fiancee’s best friends–gregarious slacker Sam (Kevin Smith), tightly-wound Dennis (Sam Jaeger) and Fritz (Timothy Olyphant), the kind of too-cool-for-school Lothario whose edginess is personified by his ability to get stoned and laid during the wake–for support while trying to figure out the next steps in her life. Before long, Gray receives two bombshells about the man that she had planned on spending the rest of her life with. The first is the fact that he apparently had over a million dollars socked away that she knew nothing about. The second is that some of that money had been going off to Maureen (Juliette Lewis), a massage therapist in L.A. to go towards raising the child that he apparently fathered with her while on one of his many business trips away from Gray.<

From this point, the film goes off into any number of directions. Not surprisingly, Gray begins to find herself strangely attracted to Fritz, even after learning that he knew more about Maureen and the kid than he initially let on. Also not surprisingly, it turns out that the straight-arrow Dennis has a well-disguised crush on Gray as well (and by “well-disguised,” I mean “he may as well have ‘I HEART GRAY’ scribbled on his forehead in every scene) and he is devastated to see her slipping away from him once again into someone else’s arms. Adding to the complications is the arrival of Maureen, who turns out to be not a gold-digging hussy but a kooky New Age type who winds up striking sparks with Sam (who, by this point, has already made one half-hearted suicide attempt for reasons that remain murky). Oh yeah, there is also a nasty near-mother-in-law (Fiona Shaw), a paternity test to determine whether Maureen is telling the truth or not, several complications and setbacks in the blossoming relationship between Gray and Fritz and an upcoming memorial service for which Gray finds herself in the awkward position of commemorating someone who she now realizes that she never really completely knew in the first place.

The problem with “Catch and Release,” aside from the relentless predictability of the material, is that writer-director Susannah Grant never really demonstrates a clear and coherent approach to the material–scenes lurch from soppy sentimentality to slapstick comedy to over-the-top melodrama with only the most ragged of transitions. (More than once, Grant is reduced to pushing the story along by the Level One convention of having someone overhearing a conversation that they weren’t supposed to hear.) It could be argued that Grant is trying to approximate the ebb-and-flow of real life, where laughter and grief often walk hand in hand, but the results feel more like first-time director Grant shot a lot of footage without having any real idea of how to put it together in the editing room.

Some of these scenes do work as individual moments (there is a very funny dinner party where Gray is suddenly compelled to confess all of her deepest secrets) but for every one that does work, there are two or three clunkers–I’m thinking of the part where Dennis finally confesses his crush to Gray and virtually every moment involving the mother-in-law–that are so awful that they virtually bring the film to a crashing halt. As for the romance between Gray and Fritz, it is a non-starter as well because you never believe them as a potential couple for a moment and watching them stumble through their courtship proves to be agonizing for a while–we know they will end up making beautiful music together as the end credits roll but we can never quite figure out why they do other than the fact that the script calls for it.

Although “Catch and Release” is a pretty bad movie, it isn’t a completely unendurable one and that is due almost entirely to the efforts of Jennifer Garner and Kevin Smith. Although Garner’s role doesn’t give her a chance to demonstrate a fraction of the considerable dramatic range that she managed to display in even the weakest episodes of “Alias,” she is so naturally charming and appealing through out that you’ll find yourself still kind of rooting for her even after you’ve given up on the rest of the film. And in his first major role in a film not of his own creation, Smith brings some much-needed snap to the proceedings with a series of quirky one-liners and observations that capture enough of the voice that he carved out in his own efforts to make me suspect that he probably had a hand in rewriting his dialogue. Granted, no one is going to confuse Smith’s work here with great acting (the sequence in which he expounds on the joys of fly-fishing to a cute kid may be the most embarrassing thing he has done on-screen since his cameo in “Scream 3") but things do perk up when he appears–so much so, in fact, that you wonder why Grant didn’t hit upon the obvious and have him wind up with Garner in the finale instead of the thoroughly uninteresting Fritz. (This is less a slam on Olyphant, who has done good work in the past in “Deadwood” and “Go,” than it is on the half-formed and often inexplicable character he has been asked to portray.) If nothing else, such an ending would have given new hope to chunky, bearded quipsters throughout the world.

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originally posted: 01/26/07 17:13:32
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Austin Film Festival For more in the 2006 Austin Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

1/31/13 jcar a very good comedy/drama with enough laughs and charm to keep into the movie 4 stars
5/18/08 Jack Sommersby Passable enough with nice performances. 3 stars
12/17/07 gr I can't decide between "meh" and "pointless" 2 stars
11/27/07 ES I enjoyed it 4 stars
7/27/07 Savannah I LOVED THIS MOVIE SO MUCH. GREAT END 5 stars
5/19/07 David Pollastrini Garner looks hot in this! 3 stars
3/24/07 Amy Grunt What Doug, 3 guys in love w/ Gray? Counting or not counting the dead one? 2 stars
3/23/07 Monica Jo Hicks Never a good sign when best line and only comic relief is "It looks like a Tampax box!" 1 stars
3/23/07 Wendy Carpenter NAPALM -- Never A Painless And Lulling Moment! 1 stars
2/20/07 Tiffany cute, funny 4 stars
2/03/07 Thomas Owens Definitely worth a look 4 stars
1/29/07 Brian Mckay Garner cute and annoying, Smith fat and annoying, Lewis SUPER annoying. Script is a mess. 2 stars
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  26-Jan-2007 (PG-13)
  DVD: 08-May-2007

  DVD: 23-Jul-2007

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