CATCH AND RELEASE
*1/2 (out of 5)
January 26, 2007
Jennifer Garner as GRAY WHEELER
Timothy Olyphant as FRITZ
Sam Jaeger as DENNIS
Kevin Smith as SAM
Juliette Lewis as MAUREEN
Joshua Friesen as MATTIE
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Directed by: Susannah Grant
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Jennifer Garner has come off her last season of “Alias” and the birth of her daughter to star in a new romantic comedy. Well, it’s not really a comedy where she’s concerned. Most of the humor comes from other members of the cast.
The movie tells the story of a young woman named Gray Wheeler (Garner) whose fiancé dies on the eve of their wedding. Not quite a widow, but full of pain, Gray tries to put her life back together. However, skeletons come out of the closet, including the fact that her fiancé had a kid in L.A. with a non-therapeutic masseuse. As Gray deals with her grief and hurt – both from her fiancé’s untimely death and the revelation of his extracurricular affair – she starts to fall in love with someone else.
Directed and written by Susannah Grant, who penned films like “Erin Brokovich” and “In Her Shoes,” this movie isn’t exactly breaking new ground. In fact, every other independent film script by some aspiring writer deals with a bunch of guys who have the hots for the one female friend in the group. It’s not a big surprise to discover that Grant also used to write for “Party of Five.” The level of angst in the script is a dead giveaway.
Ultimately, the film tries to tackle too much at once, and it crumbles with little support by the cast. Like Julia Roberts, Jennifer Garner is pretty much a one-note actress who can only play a limited number of characters. Unfortunately, this isn’t one of them.
While there’s things to say about Jennifer Garner in this film, I feel more compelled to talk about Kevin Smith, who plays Gray’s all-you-can-eat buddy. He seemed oddly out of place in this movie yet strangely appropriate. After all, his BFF Ben Affleck is Garner’s real-life hubby. But his casting is odd because this is really the first time he stepped out of his own movies for a major role. Otherwise, his acting gigs have been nothing more than cameos, Jay & Silent Bob tributes and a stint on “Degrassi” in which he played himself.
Of course, Smith pretty much plays himself in “Catch and Release,” so much so that he got to choose his own wardrobe. It makes you kind of wonder if he and Jennifer Garner would have this very relationship if Affleck met an untimely demise.
Ultimately, Smith is the funniest thing in the film, ending up with some of the best lines. Unfortunately, Smith spends more time stuffing his face on screen and being the target for fat jokes than actually being a real character in the film. He and his weight is such a focus of the film that it’s tempting to sting him with a line like “It’s a good thing they shot this film in widescreen format because it was the only way to fit Smith’s fat ass into the frame.” But I’m sure he’s already telling that very joke to family and friends, as is his self-deprecating style.
Gee whiz! You’d think Kevin Smith is the love interest. Sadly, he’s not. Timothy Olyphant is. Yet Olyphant’s portrayal of an indie director who falls for Gray is so weak that he doesn’t actually feel like the star of his own movie. Often, the supporting cast can make or save a movie, Here, they don’t have much of a shot. Juliette Lewis plays the dead fiancé’s “other woman,” and she’s got the most irritating and hideous demon child in tow through half of the film.
The one nice thing about “Catch and Release” is the scenery. Filmed in Boulder, Colorado, it’s a giant advertisement for the Patagonia hippie lifestyle. And half of the budget must have come from the Celestial Seasoning tea company considering the brand gets more screen time than FedEx did in “Castaway.”
Unable to work as a comedy, romance or drama, this film isn’t to catch or release. Best to just let this one swim on by.