Now Showing: Summer Catch

Posted: Wednesday, September 05, 2001

Rarely have I gone to a movie that I had less interest in seeing than the throw-away, end of summer trash that is Summer Catch.

Usually, when you go to see a movie having such low expectations, you tend to be pleasantly surprised. Unfortunately, my level of enthusiasm only lessened the longer the movie went on.

Certified "hottie", though I can't imagine why, Freddie Prinze Jr. stars as Ryan Dunne, a hot young college pitcher hoping to get a shot at the pros. Through an extended exposition at the beginning of the film, we are informed that the quickest ticket to the majors is being invited to play in a small summer league on the Cape (Cape Cod, Cape Canaveral, Cape of Good Hope, who knows? It's just "the Cape"). Hopefuls from across the country flock to this summer league to show off for hordes of scouts looking for fresh talent. This was all news to me. I thought that was what college ball was for, but what do I know?

Anyway, the team soon fills up with the regular class of misfits and stock characters. There's the cocky superstar, the friendly, peace-making catcher, the quirky Hispanic fielder, the up-and-comer, etc, etc. There's also your standard poor guy loves rich girl but can't measure up because his father cuts her father's lawns story. Yawn. I'm getting sleepy again just thinking about it.

Of course everything comes down to the last game. Of course she defies her father's wishes. Of course he pitches the game of his life. Why would anyone even make this movie?

The acting is all right, though with the hammy, overdramatic dialogue it's a wonder. This is one of those movies that has no idea what it wants to be. Bull Durham? Blue Chips? Varsity Blues? Major League? Summer Catch falls far below the quality of the worst of these.

The drama is overplayed and over familiar. The humor is nonexistent. I didn't laugh once. I don't even think I smiled. One gag after another falls flat due to poor delivery and rotten timing. In what may have been an attempt at homage, the filmmakers use Beverly D'Angelo to blatantly rip off the Susan Sarandon scene in Durham where she explains how she "provides a service" to baseball players. Instead of funny, it comes of as crude and depressing.

The caricatures that are intended to reveal the true heart of the people of the Cape are just offensive. The locals are played as either poor vacant moron-slobs, or rich vacant moron-elitists. The local youth are portrayed as being little more than oversexed beer swilling idiots, though there is relatively little skin due to the increasing paranoia in Hollywood over "adult themed material." Perhaps the worst part of the film is the music. It's all wailing saxophones and mysterious guitars. Most of it sounds like it was lifted from the soundtrack of Red Shoe Diaries IV, and then cranked up loud.

Also cast is Brian Dennehy looking very, very old as the coach. Dennehy used to be cool. He'd take these big bear roles and, be they sinister or loveable, play them to the hilt. I hadn't seen him in a while, and now I know why. He really looks bad. He looked pained in every scene. Also looking very old and sporting a very obvious toupe is Fred Ward as Prinze's father.

Matthew Lillard of Scream fame plays Billy "Bru" Brubaker, the aforementioned catcher. Lillard might have a great career ahead of him were he not so irritating and untalented. Jessica Biel rounds it out as Tenley Parrish, the aforementioned rich girl who has a thing for the lawn boy. Biel has the honor of uttering the film's hammiest lines, the ones that are repeated during the final game in echoey voice-overs, as if we didn't get them the first time. "Allow yourself to succeed!" she cries weepily. "Let yourself be great!"

Part of my job is warn people off of movies like this one, but in this case it may be unnecessary. I was the only person in the theater when I went. In fact, I doubt they would have even started it had I not shown up.

I'd like to think that the word is getting out. I'd like to think that people are tiring of idiotic plots and pretty faces with nothing behind them. I'd like to think that people are tired of movies made for an adult audience, then sanitized for kids, leaving nothing but a wasted shell. I'm probably fooling myself. If this movie had had better marketers, it would be tops at the box office. Look how much money Pearl Harbor made. That's the sad state of affairs in Hollywood these days. You don't need talent to hit a home run any more, just a bigger bat. Grade: D

Summer Catch is rated PG-13 for sexual content and language.

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