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Summer Catch (December 29/01)

Does Freddie Prinze Jr's agent hate him? The actor keeps making these silly little movies intended for 12-year-olds, and it's impossible not to wonder what goes through his head when he agrees to make these flicks. Does his agent try to dissuade him? Or is it entirely the fault of said agent? Perhaps Freddie is simply a pawn in some sinister plan to destroy his career for whatever reason.

The latest Prinze Jr. suckfest is called Summer Catch, and it's slightly better than most of his other movies - if only because of the caliber of the supporting cast. The movie takes place on Cape Cod island, a small town devoted almost exclusively to baseball (or so it seems, anyway). Every year, scouts from all the major teams come to the championship games to recruit the next big player. Prinze Jr. stars as a local boy who's finally made it onto the team, after years of mowing the various lawns in and around town (including the baseball field). When he's not pitching horribly, he's courting the daughter of a local rich guy, who (obviously) disapproves of their relationship.

With a cast that includes Brian Dennehy, Jason Gedrick and Brittany Murphy, the filmmakers really had their work cut out for them in nevertheless cranking out a crappy movie. Every single character is a cardboard cut-out from other (better) movies. You've got the local slut with a heart of gold, then there's good natured and fun-loving best friend, and let's not forget the tough-as-nails coach who, not surprisingly, also has a heart of gold. These aren't characters - they're pawns in a relentlessly stupid storyline determined to take them from A to B on the path of least resistance. It's as if the screenwriter watched a bunch of sports movies, took the parts he liked best, and mashed everything together until he wound up with an appallingly unoriginal pastiche. The most blatant example comes in the form of a local woman that's made it a tradition to sleep with some of the ball players - Bull Durham, anyone?

But the acting is good. As Prinze Jr.'s father, Fred Ward turns in a surprisingly touching performance as a man who's watched all his dreams die and has now turned to alcohol as the solution to his problems. Ditto Dennehy. As the gruff coach, Dennehy slowly reveals a tender interior - complete with a moving speech designed to encourage Prinze Jr. And even Prinze Jr.'s not so bad - as long as you accept the fact that he'll never ever play a character that's even remotely different from any other he's already played.

Summer Catch could've been a lot worse, I suppose, but that's really not saying much. That's akin to saying eating dog food might not be as bad as eating dog excrement. They're both horrible, so what's the difference?

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