Summer Catch (2001) / Romance-Comedy
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for sexual content, language and drinking Running Time: 108 min.
Cast: Freddie Prinze Jr, Jessica Biel, Matthew Lillard, Fred Ward, Brian Dennehy, Jason Gedrick, Bruce Davison
Director: Michael Tollin
Screenplay: Kevin Falls, John Gatins
Yes, it's just another teen movie, regardless if they are actually playing 20-somethings. It's the same old story you've seen before a hundred times, this time centering around the world of summer league baseball. But this movie isn't about baseball, it's about bodies, lots and lots of young men and women without their shirts on, just in time for the summer rush.
Freddie Prinze, Jr. stars, which automatically should tell you that this isn't going to be good based on his dismal track record so far. He plays aspiring pitcher Ryan Dunne, son of a landscaper with big dreams to make millions playing in the big leagues. To get there, he must first prove himself worth by playing in the summer leagues in Cape Cod, along with many other aspiring college hopefuls, so that scouts from the major leagues can watch and sign those who have the right stuff. However, Dunne has a lot to learn, as he struggles late in the game, and his performance off the field certainly doesn't help his concentration, as he has become involved with a well-to-do hottie named Tenley. Tenley's father disapproves of her seeing Ryan as anything more than a summer fling, and with Daddy pulling the strings, the budding romance may be extinguished before it has a chance to grow, along with Ryan's hopes of going pro, if he doesn't get his head on straight.
Anyone who isn't merely watching this because they are infatuated with either of the two leads is in for a disappointing experience. As a comedy, the laughs are paltry, with most jokes coming from crude insults or innuendo, with the occasional exception of the unintentional chuckles which may be evoked during the hackneyed teary-eyed dramatic scenes. The romance lacks any fireworks, probably because the two never really get to know each other well enough for us to feel they are really in love, and also from the wafer-thin characterizations pulled from teen flicks since the beginning of popular cinema. Even as a baseball film, the result is lacking, because we never have a rooting interest in any of the games, so when the choice has to be made between baseball and love late in the flick, we don't care either way.
Summer Catch is the first feature film by Michael Tollin, whose only real previous work of note was a documentary about Hank Aaron, who coincidentally makes a cameo appearance in the movie. If anything, Tollin appears to be trying to recreate in baseball what he did as producer for the modestly successful Varsity Blues, with its equally appealing cast. Like most of the characters in the film, the script by Kevin Falls (The Temp) and John Gatins (Hardball) just isn't ready for the major leagues, definitely needing a lot more heart and soul if it ever wanted to have any distinction.
I normally have a soft spot for films revolving around baseball, but Summer Catch obviously isn't about the game except as it pushes the drama of sacrifice. It is supposed to be about finding one's own meaning in life, and following your heart regardless of the big payoff. Ironically, the creators of this film inject very little heart themselves, instead putting together a cast and situations which might equate to profitable returns. I suppose it's just desserts that they learned their lessons the hard way, as Summer Catch never caught on at the box office, or with fans of the good-looking stars.
© 2003 Vince Leo