This romantic "dramedy" starring Jennifer Garner should have been thrown back
When a studio delays the release of a movie, it doesn't bode well. And the new romantic dramedy Catch and Release, which opens this weekend, was supposed to come out a year ago. But Jennifer Garner has been doing press saying that Columbia Pictures delayed the release because she was too emotional over the end of Alias and the birth of her daughter with Ben Affleck, Violet. And she didn't want to give "short shrift" to Catch and Release by not being able to give it the publicity it deserved at the time.
Catch and Release is the story of Gray Wheeler (Garner), a young woman whose fiancé, Grady, dies in a freak accident. After the funeral, which takes place on what was to be their wedding day, Gray realizes she cannot afford the house they had rented together. His two best friends, slovenly Sam (Kevin Smith) and straight-laced Dennis (Sam Jaeger), give her a place to crash at their house. Unfortunately, they have also offered up space to LA playboy Fritz (Timothy Olyphant), Grady's best friend from childhood whom Gray hates. All four begin mourning in their own ways. But when Gray starts discovering disturbing things about Grady that she never knew, she learns that maybe he wasn't the man she thought he was after all. And his friend Fritz becomes more and more appealing.
This movie has so many problems that I actually don't know where to start. It's just that much of a disaster. If pressed, I'd say it looks like the main culprit is writer/director Susannah Grant. What's confusing is that Grant has absolutely shown the ability to write things that make sense (such as Erin Brockovich, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award®), but Catch and Release is her first feature directorial effort. Yet it is the story itself that is really the main issue. Then again, she also wrote In Her Shoes, which was a hideous mess as well. And it appears it was that Susannah Grant who showed up to pen this byoot.
First, Catch and Release doesn't know whether it is a romantic comedy about a woman who discovers her dead fiancé had a secret past and falls for his buddy, or if it is an ensemble drama about a group of young Boulderites mourning an unexpected loss of a friend. So it splits the difference and includes all of everything, which results in a seriously schizophrenic script--not enough scenes with the friend characters to make it a full-on ensemble piece, but way too many of them for a piece that ostensibly has Garner as a lead.
In fact, the several subplots become so overwhelming that about half way through the movie you have absolutely no idea where it is going. It becomes devoid of all forward motion, and there is no indication of what the end point might possibly be. Catch and Release basically feels like Grant wrote five different drafts and then decided to film every scene from all of them and jumble them together in no particular order.
The turning points, all 4,000 of them, seem to come out of absolutely nowhere--so the characters seem to make their major decisions with no impetus whatsoever. The romantic comedy set pieces (e.g., Sam and Dennis dropping Gray, Gray's revelations at the "qi" dinner, etc.) aren't funny at all, which results in the uncomfortable experience of watching the actors try their hardest to be wacky while you aren't even cracking a smile. On the other hand, the theater I was in echoed with embarrassed laughter during the several trite and misplaced "climactic" moments that missed their marks.
The performances are okay, nothing special--with the exception of Juliette Lewis (What's Eating Gilbert Grape, Natural Born Killers), who plays Maureen, the masseuse with whom Grady had been having an adulterous affair. She's pretty good. Kevin Smith (Clerks, Jersey Girl) seemed like a poor man's substitute for Jack Black. As much as I was rooting for him to nail it, he clearly should stay behind the camera where his real talent lies. And Timothy Olyphant (The Girl Next Door, Deadwood) came off more like Billy Bob Thornton's bastard stepson than a smoldery sheep in wolf's clothing.
Even the characters' names we bad. I mean, Gray? Grady? Fritz? Seriously.
There's more I could say--weird cuts, oddly silent child actors--but I'm pretty sure the horse is dead. Suffice it to say that when the best thing you can say about a movie is the soundtrack was decent (catch the old Lemonheads tune in the beginning), it's not worth the trip to the theater. In fact, you might even want to spare yourself the trip to the rental store.