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'Summer Catch'

Striking out: 'Summer Catch' is a rehash of baseball and poor-boy movies

Friday, August 24, 2001

By Barbara Vancheri, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Sitting through the credits for "Summer Catch" I thought, that sounds like a Clarks song. The talking teens -- apparently mistaking the theater for their private screening room -- finally had left, so I could hear without the buzz of constant conversation.

 
    Movie Review

'SUMMER CATCH'

RATING: PG-13 for sexual content, language and some drinking (plenty of beer is consumed)

STARRING: Freddie Prinze Jr., Jessica Biel

DIRECTOR: Mike Tollin

CRITIC'S CALL:

 
 

And then the credits confirmed my hunch: It was The Clarks from Pittsburgh. The band's song "Let It Go," written by lead vocalist Scott Blasey, closes the romantic comedy starring Freddie Prinze Jr. and Jessica Biel. It didn't make the cut for the soundtrack, however.

Wish I could report I liked the movie more, but it's a rehash of all the poor boy-rich girl films you've ever seen, with elements borrowed from baseball movies such as "Bull Durham," "Major League" and "For Love of the Game." Throw in the townies vs. the outsiders, the summer love aspect and you've got the whole nine innings -- plus a cameo by Hank Aaron, who seemed to go largely unrecognized by the younger crowd.

Prinze plays Ryan Dunne, a Cape Cod native and pitcher who finally is getting a chance to play amateur ball with the heavily scouted Cape Cod Baseball League. Hall of Famers such as Carlton Fisk and the late Thurman Munson came out of the league, and Ryan wants to follow in their footsteps. He's the first local player in seven years to join the team, and this is his last chance at a ball career.

While Ryan's fastball has been clocked at 90 mph, he has several strikes against him: He is stubborn, feels surrounded by negative people (his widowed father and bartender brother) and has a reputation as a dropout and hothead. He quit Boston College and was bounced from another school for fighting with a teammate. Although it's never spelled out, we're led to believe these troubles were the result of the death of his mother.

He works with his blue-collar father (Fred Ward), a landscaper who serves the wealthy families who keep summer homes on the Cape. It's while cutting the grass at one such place that Ryan spots a swimsuit-clad Vassar grad named Tenley Parrish (Jessica Biel). It's flirtation at first sight, and the two begin seeing each other in a relationship that everyone assumes will be doomed or short-lived.

The romance is interwoven with the antics of the other players, including a virginal second baseman (Wilmer Valderrama), wildman catcher (Matthew Lillard) from California and cocky pitcher (Corey Pearson) being courted by the Dodgers. Brian Dennehy is the coach of their team, the Chatham A's, and Curt Gowdy turns up as a radio announcer.

"Summer Catch" puts Ryan to two tests: The one on the field, where he often starts strong, loses his control and finishes in the loss column, and the one off the field where Tenley's parents treat him like the lowly lawn boy. Tenley, meanwhile, is struggling with the life her wealthy father (Bruce Davison) has mapped out for her. The movie builds to the usual Game of His Life, with love and a chance at the bigs on the line. The resolution won't wash with baseball fans; swooning teens might buy it, however.

The press kit has more background on the league than the movie does, which is somewhat of a shame. But "Summer Catch" is being aimed at teens who are happy to see Prinze in an orange thong (although he says those cheeks belong to a stunt double) and Biel enthusing about the joy of swimming in the rain.

Heartthrob Prinze looks enough like a pitcher to be believable, and Biel gets to wear the sort of bikini that would never pass muster on the WB's "7th Heaven," where she plays Mary Camden. The couple is handsome but skin-deep. So is the movie, although it does endorse the concepts of dreaming big, believing in yourself and following your heart.

And learning how to pour beer without using your hands -- the talent of the town tart, who likes to borrow her conquests' underwear and leave them her thongs. Thus the stunt double for Prinze. As one of my co-workers quipped, can you imagine those auditions?

'SUMMER CATCH'

RATING: PG-13 for sexual content, language and some drinking (plenty of beer is consumed)

STARRING: Freddie Prinze Jr., Jessica Biel

DIRECTOR: Mike Tollin

TWO STARS

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