You mightn't imagine the picturesque Cape Cod to be a place where you can play ball, booze it up and chase the girls, but if you're to believe Summer Catch, Cape Cod has got it all--plus tense rivalry and deep-rooted class distinctions.
Freddie Prinze Jr. stars as Ryan Dunne, the first local boy to break into the Cape Cod Baseball League--a stable of college all-stars who descend upon the idyllic seaside town for the summer to duke it out for pro scouts. Ryan is a fairly talented pitcher but tends to choke at key moments in a game. He's got a dad (Fred Ward) and a brother (Jason Gedrick) who work blue-collar jobs and (in a typically clichéd fashion) don't want to see Ryan fail as they have. But even with all the competition, Ryan still manages to make friends with rowdy catcher Billy ''Bru'' Brubaker (Matthew Lillard). To complicate matters, Ryan gets involved with the lovely and--surprise!--rich girl named Tenley Parrish (Jessica Biel), whose father (Bruce Davison) is none too pleased about his daughter's budding romance with the ''boy from the wrong side of the tracks.'' The pressures are mounting. Will Ryan make it to the Big Show? And if so, will we care?
No matter what he does, Prinze seems to be in this teen flick rut. His Ryan may be the most complex character he has played so far, but that isn't saying a whole lot. The actor has decent range and is capable of tackling heavier material. It's just time for him to grow up. Biel, known best for her role as a troubled daughter on the family WB show 7th Heaven, gets to stretch her wings here and does a good job playing an unspoiled rich girl who doesn't care what her family thinks. On the flip side, Davison falls right into the villainous father figure role, without trying anything new. Lillard underplays his talented slugger from USC, yet manages to add a requisite amount of flair when needed. Still, like his pal Prinze, he needs to move on and join the big leagues. However, a true standout is Brian Dennehy as the demanding but understanding coach. He is one of those actors you can always depend upon to give you a good performance.
The premise of the story, in which the action is centered upon the Cape Cod Baseball League, is different, but the script never digs deep. Apparently, the writers felt subtleties in a scene wouldn't adequately display the emotional impact needed, so every cliché in the book is thrown right in your face. For example, Ryan's embittered and widowed dad, who has long given up his dreams, will be damned if he sees Ryan fail. There are the typical barroom antics as well as the sneering rival pitcher (Corey Pearson) who wants Ryan out of the way. Or how about the ''fast'' girl in town (Brittany Murphy, wasted in this role) with a heart of gold. You get the picture. It's clear director Michael Tollin enjoys the game of baseball. The film steps up a notch when the action is on the field. However, many directors before him have portrayed the beloved sport better.
For a movie about baseball, Summer Catch has its moments, but for a movie about romance, family and friendship, it fails miserably.