Catch and Release

Reviewed By Doug Bentin
Posted 02/15/07 14:21:52

"Seek and Destroy"
3 stars (Just Average)

Aw, our first romantic comedy with dramatic pretensions of the new year has arrived, and it stars the marginally talented Jennifer Garner.

If Alice fell asleep in Wonderland and dreamed that she was in a place even weirder, the logic of that Dreamland would make more sense than some of the stuff that goes on in the generically titled “Catch and Release.” The title refers to the act of catching fish with hooks and then releasing them back into the river. The protagonist of our story, Gray Wheeler (Jennifer Garner) thinks this is cruel and that killing the fish and eating it would be less hard on its psyche. I guess feeding it to rabid weasels who would rip it to shreds while it was still alive would be even more merciful.

Anyway, as the film begins Gray’s fiancée has just died. At the funeral reception, Gray gets emotionally eviscerated and slips into an upstairs bathroom to hide in the tub. One of her late fiancée’s pals from El Lay enters the room with a bimbo he just met and they proceed to partake of a little slap and tickle while Gray remains hiding behind the bath curtain. Still making sense to you? Yeah, me too.

The friend is named Fritz (Timothy Olyphant, “Deadwood”) and Gray doesn’t much care for him but he stays over in the house that was shared by Gray, her lover, and two more buds, Dennis (Sam Jaeger, “Lucky Number Sleven”) and Sam (Kevin Smith slumming in the kind of movie you thought he’d never make himself before you saw “Jersey Girl”).

Thank goodness for cell phones because the dead guy’s phone rings and Gray discovers that her man was the father of an illegitimate son he was helping to support to the tune of $3000 a month. Oh yeah, Gray and the buddies have also just found out that the dead guy—let’s call him Mr. Secrets—had a million bucks stashed away.

Fritz explains that the child was the result of a one-night romance with a massage therapist named Maureen (Juliette Lewis is trashy but not as trashy as she is when she’s really fun to watch) that took place before Gray entered the scene. This is not true, of course, but Gray believes him and begins to feel That Way about Fritz. Uh huh—she’s feeling great anger because Mr. Secrets had a one night stand without protection and lied to her while she’s falling in love with Fritz, who had a one night stand without protection—remember the scene in the bathroom--and lies to her.

Only one of the “Friends” in the film will wind up un-paired-off. This is what passes for realism in 30-second eggs like this one. The acting remains at the level of talented amateur night either because the writing doesn’t offer much to sink one’s teeth into or because the actor isn’t all that good—Garner and Smith. Smith at least has the grace to be amusing. Garner is just dull. Three guys in this movie are in love with Gray, but she never seems to be anything but what her name would indicate.

The picture is written and directed by Susannah Grant, who wrote “Charlotte’s Web” and “Erin Brokovich,” and she manages to make Boulder, Colorado, look about as enticing as your neighbor’s back yard.

There’s nothing here to hate, but there’s nothing to skip a good TV show for, either. Maybe you can find a documentary on Boulder running on the Travel Channel.

© Copyright HBS Entertainment, Inc.