Dir: Mike Tollin. US. 2001. 104mins.
Summer Catch tries to cover a lot of bases: part baseball drama, part bawdy jock romp and part star-crossed romance, it ends up feeling like an Identikit summer movie. An attractive cast led by Freddie Prinze Jr might incite enough audience interest for a modest opening in the US, but the bland, generic feel is likely to bring the box office inning to a quick close. Internationally, the baseball theme will make the film's prospects even more slight.
The story is built around a depiction of a real-life baseball league staged each summer in idyllic Cape Cod featuring the top college players from around the country. Boarding with small-town families, the players compete to show off their skills to scouts from big-money Major League baseball teams. Prinze's Ryan Dunne is a blue-collar local with a chequered college-playing career getting his last chance to prove his worth in the league. Burdened by the expectations of his recently-widowed dad (Ward), his less talented brother (Gedrick) and his tough coach (Dennehy), Ryan struggles to live up to his promise. But he is distracted by the rowdy antics of his fellow players and by his interest in Tenley (Biel, from TV's 7th Heaven), the pretty daughter of a rich family that employs Ryan and his dad to tend their garden.
Steered by TV-and-film-producer-turned-director Mike Tollin (an Oscar nominee for his short baseball documentary Hank Aaron: Chasing The Dream), the film delivers few surprises and most of the cliches that its story suggests. The baseball sequences are sometimes quite vivid, but they resort too often to slow-motion footage and hugely exaggerated sound effects. The relatively tame jock comedy has the usual stock characters: a cocky star (newcomer Pearson), a kooky, hard-partying catcher (Lillard, from Scream), a virginal innocent (Valderrama, from TV's That 70's Show) and a randy housewife (Beverly D'Angelo, in an uncredited cameo). The romance is all quivering flirtation, with Tenley's snobbish father (Davison) acting as the party-pooping grown-up.
For much of its running time, the film essentially rotates a handful of scenes that nudge forward each of the story's strands. Ryan's fortunes on the field go up then down then up. The jocks gradually come to terms with their raging hormones. And Ryan and Tenley's affair quivers its way towards commitment. Only in its closing moments does the film deliver an emotional, but still very corny, punch.
Prod cos: Warner Bros Pictures presents a Tollin/Robbins production
US dist: Warner Bros.
Int'l dist: Warner Bros.
Prods: Mike Tollin, Brian Robbins, Sam Weisman
Exec prod: Herb Gains
Scr: Kevin Falls, John Gatins
Cinematography: Tim Suhrstedt
Prod des: John D Kretschmer
Ed: Harvey Rosenstock
Music: George Fenton
Main cast: Freddie Prinze Jr, Jessica Biel, Fred Ward, Jason Gedrick, Brittany Murphy, Gabriel Mann, Bruce Davison, Marc Blucas, Matthew Lillard, Brian Dennehy.