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SUMMER CATCH
Reviewed January 3rd, 2002 by David Nusair

 

Youíve gotta wonder who Freddie Prinze Jr.ís agent is. He keeps making these silly little movies intended for 12-year-olds, and itís 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 itís slightly better than most of his other movies Ė 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 whoís finally made it onto the team, after years of mowing the various lawns in and around town (including the baseball field). When heís not pitching horribly, heís 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. Youíve got the local slut with a heart of gold, then thereís good natured and fun-loving best friend, and letís not forget the tough-as-nails coach who, not surprisingly, also has a heart of gold. These arenít characters Ė theyíre pawns in a relentlessly stupid storyline determined to take them from A to B on the path of least resistance. Itís 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 thatís made it a tradition to sleep with some of the ball players Ė Bull Durham, anyone?

But the acting is good. As Prinze Jr.ís father, Fred Ward turns in a surprisingly touching performance as a man whoís 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 Ė complete with a moving speech designed to encourage Prinze Jr. And even Prinze Jr.ís not so bad Ė as long as you accept the fact that heíll never ever play a character thatís even remotely different from any other heís already played.

Summer Catch couldíve been a lot worse, I suppose, but thatís really not saying much. Thatís akin to saying eating dog food might not be as bad as eating dog poop. Theyíre both horrible, so whatís the difference?

Audio: Given that this is a Warner release, you know youíre in for a decent audio/video transfer. This 5.1 DD soundtrack doesnít disappoint. The various baseball sequences make excellent use of the surround speakers, with the crowd noise coming from all around you. Likewise, the quieter, more subdued scenes are equally clear.

Video: This anamorphically enhanced 1.85:1 transfer is as clean and crisp as youíd expect a brand new flick to be. Thereís not a single artifact to be found, and the various colors come through with startling vibrancy. If youíve gotta watch this movie, this is the way to do it.

Extras: Thereís not much in the way of extras here, but what is included is surprisingly good. First up is a commentary track with director Michael Tollin and writer John Gatins. These guys obviously get along great and their enthusiasm for the film proves to be infectious. A lot of interesting tidbits are revealed, along with many equally informative and entertaining anecdotes. Oddly enough, co-star Jessica Biel is also on this commentary track (though recorded separately) Ė but isnít listed on the back of the DVD packaging. Her comments are limited to her scenes only, and are just as interesting as the comments made by the two guys. Another feature not listed on the packaging is the ability to watch the deleted scenes Matrix-style. Like that DVD, every time a symbol pops up on screen (in this case, itís a white baseball), you just press enter and youíre taken directly to a deleted scene that would have been there. This is a very effective way to check out deleted scenes, since you can see where it would have belonged. You can also watch these sequences separately from the extras menu (they run about 10-minutes and are all essentially filler). Finally, there are some cast/crew bios.

Conclusion: Maybe if youíve never seen a baseball movie (or any sports movie, for that matter), you might just enjoy the heck out of Summer Catch. Everyone else, beware.

 

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