“I’m just trying to figure out what inning you’re going to self-destruct.”
Upon revisiting Summer Catch, a mediocre film I admittedly fell asleep to nearly every night during the break of 2002, I have to admit that, despite its occasional charms, some parts simply don’t work. The movie doesn’t know if it’s a love struck romance, a raunchy comedy, or a sports drama, and so it simply takes all three and mashes them together without a binding agent. Things are passable when each component operates on its own, yet the film falls apart when it tries to bring them all together. It’s not a horrible movie, nor is it a very good one either. I found myself laughing at it instead of with it.
The star of the film is the handsome heart-throb Ryan Dunne (Freddie Prinze Jr.), a Cape Cod local who cuts grass with his widowed Dad (Fred Ward) when he’s not on the mound for the venerated Chatham A’s club. Ryan’s a hot-head lefty with a fiery fastball and some good off-speed pitches, struggling to find a zen place when things go awry. Normally he self-destructs and gets bailed out by the bullpen. But then one night he meets Tenley Parrish (Jessica Biel), the down to earth daughter of one of the highfalutin clients of Ryan’s Dad, and the flowers of the romance bud almost immediately. He see her and she seems him. A relationship would be easy if antiquated social constructs didn’t have to get in the way of their authentic love. They fight for each other.
To this day, I think there’s an above average movie hiding in plain sight somewhere in the pages of Summer Catch. The romance clicks but has an air of phoniness it can’t quite shake. The baseball sequences are better than most films of its kind. And the drama is similar to 2004’s The Notebook yet noticeably less fulfilled. I think that’s because the writer Kevin Falls tried to make a sports movie about everything instead about any one thing, which didn’t help director Michael Tollin achieve a decisive tone from such a messy script. Is this supposed to be like Bull Durham, is it Minor League, is it Little Big League? Unfortunately the answer seems to be all of the above, just with squeamish subplots, underdeveloped characters, and a passion for histrionics. I like Summer Catch when it hits its target. But it sure is subpar when it airmails such a pedestrian pitch.
Summer Catch takes the time to introduce so many characters but doesn’t bother to ever really develop them. The leads are fine, as are the disgruntled parents, and a few side players at least get one trick to play throughout. But it’s just such a severely, at times blatantly underdeveloped film, full of bits that have either aged poorly or made little to no sense no matter the time. All of the fat shaming jokes land with a forced thud, especially since the actress embodying the unenviable role isn’t the morbidly obese figure you’d expect. I still can’t wrap my head around the creepy housemother who seduces and sleeps with the athletes. The plot line adds nothing, defies logic, and epitomizes all of the things wrong with Summer Catch, a movie that’s as easy to tear apart as it is to blindly enjoy, and one that was so obviously written by a man. To this day, I can’t keep myself from laughing when Jessica Biel pronounces “Let’s be together!” during the emotional third act. Summer Catch is corny, kitschy, and an interesting at bat destined to result in a walk.
“You got a bag full of talent and a head full of crap.”
Rating: 2.5 out of 5