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Movie Review

Summer Catch

Summer Catch
(L-R) Christian Kane, Freddie Prinze Jr., Wilmer Valderrama, Matthew Lillard and Brian Dennehy in "Summer Catch"

Whole star Whole star
Rated PG-13 for sexual content and language. 1 hour, 48 minutes.
Publication date: Aug. 24, 2001
Review by Joe Mader
Released: (2001)

What gets you is not that this latest Freddie Prinze, Jr. vehicle is bad. It's that with any taste or talent on the part of the filmmakers, it could have been good. You're exasperated by all the wasted potential. Chock full of young stars, mostly from the WB network ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Angel," "7th Heaven"), "Summer Catch," (produced, conveniently, by Warner Brothers) plays like an idiot teenybopper version of "Bull Durham."

Prinze is Ryan Dunne, a junior college-washout, head-case baseball player, who's got one last chance in the hotshot Cape Cod Baseball League. The league offers college all-stars a chance to show their stuff for major league scouts. Can Ryan, the first local boy to pitch in the league, confront the anger he feels over his mother's recent death, the shame he feels over his working-class father (Fred Ward) and bartender brother (Jason Gedrick) and the love he feels for the local rich man's daughter (Jessica Biel, of the aforementioned "7th Heaven")? Of course he can.

Prinze does some fine acting, especially opposite Gedrick (who's terrific as the brother who's reconciled to his own busted dreams) and Gabriel Mann, a young actor who plays Ryan's best friend. And Prinze and Biel are an undeniably attractive pair.

But where "Bull Durham" used wit and irony to explode baseball cliches even as it celebrated them, "Summer Catch" takes its "believe-in-yourself," self-actualization crapola in earnest. First-time director Mike Tollin and writers Kevin Falls and John Gatins take a talented cast and waste them with predictable subplots and improbable, moronic comedy that undercuts what the actors are trying to achieve.

Bruce Davison as the rich papa who doesn't want his daughter messin' around with the hired help (both Dunne Sr. and Jr. are his gardeners), Brian Dennehy as the coach and Ward --spectacular actors all--can't do much with their tired, trite roles. Mark Blucas (who had a recurring in "Buffy") manages to be charming as an outfielder with a penchant for Rubenesque women, despite several horrendous set-ups calculated to humiliate him. And the wonderful Brittany Murphy ("Clueless," "Girl, Interrupted") justifies easy townie girls everywhere.

Matthew Lillard as the goofball catcher, however, still fails to earn his good press. (He's an actor without technique who apparently thinks that what made him funny in high school is what will make him funny onscreen.) And poor Beverly D'Angelo is sunk in an uncredited, mortifying cameo as an older woman who beds the young hunks. (Clearly meant as a nod to Susan Sarandon in "Bull Durham," it reverberates as an insult to both women).

Call this one foul.

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