The mark of a good romantic comedy is whether it can make you care if the couple in the poster wind up being an item by the final reel. At the end of “Catch and Release,” Cupid’s intrigues and caprices are less involving than a typical State of the Union address.Screenwriter and rookie director Susannah Grant (“Erin Brockovich”) has picked the uniquely scenic Boulder as a location and has made at least one inspired casting choice. Grant’s script, on the other hand, is sloppy and undercooked and is as listless as the recreational stoners she depicts.
The muddled tale begins as Gray (Jennifer Garner) attempts to come to terms with her fiancé Grady’s sudden death just days before the wedding. Grady might have been a decent boyfriend, but he kept some starling secrets. He had more money than even his best friends knew he had, and he had a child with a California message therapist named Maureen (Juliette Lewis).
Gray has difficulty adjusting to the latter revelation, and finds herself getting better acquainted with Grady’s old friends. She finds herself drawn to bad boy advertising director Fritz (Timothy Olyphant) while Dennis (Sam Jaeger) finally admits he’s had a long burning crush on her.
What follows isn’t a love triangle: The only geometric shape it resembles is a flat line. The characters are too sketchily drawn to be engaging. An exception is Lewis’ turn as a message therapist because her performance is a little too broad.
They make dramatic decisions like suicide attempts arbitrarily, and while these folks have jobs, it’s hard to tell what they do for a living. One would like to think that the residents of Boulder would have better things to do with their time than spouting quasi-philosophic musings.
Grant’s sluggish pacing and a soundtrack of listless alt-rock tunes prevent the film from ever coming to life. Garner’s voiceover tells us how Gray has grown, but nothing in Grant’s images or words indicates that is true.
To her credit, Grant has cast moonlighting director Kevin Smith as Gray’s Bohemian pal Sam. Smith may be coasting on the droll charm he demonstrates on his speaking tours, but his bon mots are about the only laughs evident in the whole film.The biggest crime is that “Catch and Release” underutilizes its Colorado location. The movie was shot in Boulder, but it feels as authentically Coloradan as an episode of “Mork and Mindy.” It’s rare movie that makes the images of the Rocky Mountan state less interesting than the sight of an exit sign. Note: This review first appeared in CountyCable.net