CATCH & RELEASE
© 2007 by C.E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.
L to R: Timothy Olyphant as Fritz and Jennifer
Garner as Grey in a scene from
CATCH & RELEASE

© 2007 Columbia Pictures/SONY

Fox TV show "PARTY OF FIVE" before segueing
such female-centric movies like Disney's
animated
POCAHONTAS, the revisionist
Cinderella tale
EVER AFTER, and the Sandra
Bullock vehicle
28 DAYS. Grant earned an
Academy Award nomination for her script for
ERIN BROCKOVICH (although Richard
LaGravenese reportedly did some uncredited
doctoring). She also adapted Jennifer Weiner's
novel
IN HER SHOES, which was pleasant
enough but suffered from miscasting. Now,
Grant has moved up to the director's chair as
well with
CATCH & RELEASE, a purported
romantic comedy that suffers from a lack of tone
and from some underdeveloped characters.

The movie is narrated by its heroine Gray
Wheeler (Jennifer Garner) and begins on what
was supposed to be her wedding day but which
is now the funeral of her fiancé, a daredevil-type
who died in a skiing accident. As the film
unfolds, Gray begins to uncover some things
about her dead intended and comes to realize
that he wasn't quite the man she thought he
was.

Now as this is supposed to be a romantic
comedy, there are a few seeming would-be
suitors for Gray, all drawn from her dead
boyfriend's pool of pals. There's Sam (director
Kevin Smith), who has taken to overeating to
cope with his grief, Dennis (Sam Jaeger), who
decides to honor his fallen pal with a peace
garden, and Fritz (Timothy Olyphant), a sort of
sleazy yet somehow likeable dude who has been
in California trying to jump-start his directing
career. If you've ever seen a movie, you will
probably figure out for whom Gray falls.

Part of the problem and yet part of the film's
charm is that it is messy and untidy, just like
real life. There's something surprisingly pleasant
in the way Grant navigates the characters
through their discoveries. But on the other hand,
there are enough subplots and wacky twists to
fuel a season of a nighttime soap opera. For
instance, there's the dead man's rich snooty
mother (portrayed by Fiona Shaw). Then, there's
a weird, holistic massage therapist (Juliette
Lewis) who turns up out of nowhere for plot
purposes.

Garner does her level best to hold the movie
together but the script lets her down. I doubt if
even Meryl Streep in her prime could have made
the mishmash believable, so it's really no fault
of Garner's. (Although after
ELECTRA and this
movie, she might want to have a word with her
agents or she'll be fighting Jennifer Aniston and
Helen Hunt for the leads in those Lifetime
movies.)

For the most part, the other actors do yeoman
work. Olyphant has tackled characters like Fritz
before, but there's much about him that the
audience doesn't learn and it's frustrating. He's
more a plot device than a fully rounded person.
Jaeger has an understated charm while Shaw is
quite good and almost redeems her over-the-top
ridiculous turn in last year's fiasco
THE BLACK
DAHLIA. Lewis, though, has made up to look
like a refugee from a third-rate touring company
of
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH, which is
something of a shame as she really tries to give
her character some depth. The biggest surprise
is the strong work of Kevin Smith, who really
steals the movie. Although he has appeared in
his own movies, Smith is not really considered
an "actor" but whether playing a variation of
himself or what, he does a wonderful job.

At best,
CATCH & RELEASE is an uneven piece.
There's a germ of a good idea in there, but it
doesn't work on screen. Grant's debut as a
director is less than impressive and soon will be
consigned to the DVD outlets where perhaps it
should have appeared first.


Rating:                D+
MPAA Rating:        PG-13 for sexual
                         content, language
                         and some drug use
Running time:      111 mins.