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Catch and Release

Catch and Release is another middle-of-the-road romantic dramedy, neither offensively bad nor terribly inspiring either, despite its best efforts.


Thing is, nothing much happens in Catch. Everyone is engaging enough but there's a lack of oomph required to get us feeling all tingly about love. As the story goes, Gray Wheeler (Jennifer Garner) is struggling after the sudden death of her fiancé, Grady. His friends, however, take her under their wing and try to help her get over the loss. There's lovable goof Sam (Kevin Smith), hyper-responsible Dennis (Sam Jaeger), and, oddly enough, the old childhood buddy Fritz (Tim Olyphant), a seemingly irresponsible playboy whom Gray never thought she could relate to. Until she shacks up with him—along with Sam and Dennis--in Grady's house. Suddenly, deep, dark secrets about who she thought was the love of her life surface, and Gray finds herself inexplicably drawn to Fritz. Aw, let's see if these two crazy kids can't work it out.


The expectations Garner will be as appealing in Catch and Release as she was in 13 Going on 30 are going to be dashed. As sad sack Gray, grief doesn't particularly suit the actress. Yes, she successfully conveys the right emotions, but she just looks so much better when she's smiling and somewhat perky. Things do pick up, however, once Gray starts falling for Fritz, played with effective sex appeal by Olyphant (Deadwood). The character actor, who has played more than a few bad guys, does a nice job as a romantic lead. And then there's Kevin Smith, obviously taking a break from directing (he's also co-starring in the fourth Die Hard installment, Live Free or Die Hard). Can you blame him? Clerks II or Jersey Girl didn't do much for his directing resume, to say the least. But as Sam, he's a charming and affable lug who gets most of the funny lines. As does Juliette Lewis as a woman from Grady's past—although her ditzy shtick does grate at times.


Writer/director Susannah Grant, known for writing strong women stories (Erin Brockovich, 28 Days), makes her directorial debut with Catch and Release--and is fairly competent at the task. Of course, her skill is more evident in the written word, but she seems to have an easygoing manner with her actors, bringing out some genuine moments. And she does explain the title: It's got to do with Grady's fly fishing business and the practice of catching and releasing a fish, which, figuratively speaking, also sums up Gray's journey through the movie. Natch. But as mentioned before, the film sort of just meanders along and is more realistic than what we really want from a good romantic movie. We want big, fat tears, great epic gnashing of teeth--and yes, even a little lust—as our young lovers discover each other in a gloriously dramatic way. Lifetime TV movies should be the standard.

Bottom Line rated this film 2 stars.