Through a series of drippy voiceovers, we are informed that there's no better proving ground for Major League Baseball than the Cape Cod summer baseball leagues, where college also-rans and hopeful dropouts go to play in the hopes of attracting big league attention. Our man Freddie has landed a spot as a pitcher on the prestigious Chatham A's, where he is hoping for his big break.
It's only after he is given ample time to show off his abs and scamper about in a woman's thong (don't ask) that we learn what the real story of Summer Catch will be: That Prinze is a poor townie named Ryan Dunne, struggling to make a name for himself; that neither his father (Fred Ward) nor brother (Jason Gedrick) pulled themselves out of their blue collar jobs and resent anyone who tries; and that the local beauty Tenley -- Tenley! (Jessica Biel) -- is so far out of his league that he probably shouldn't even bother... but of course he makes a play for her.
Summer Catch also makes an abortive stab at another half a dozen subplots -- the jealousy of fellow townie and brazen slut Dee Dee (Brittany Murphy), the alienation felt by Ryan's non-baseball playing best friend (Gabriel Mann), or the fat chick fetish of fellow player Miles (Marc Blucas). Worst of these is a ludicrous bit involving That '70s Show's Wilmer Valderrama and Beverly D'Angelo, both of whom appear in the film simply to provide a nutty Mrs. Robinson-like substory and to remind you of how much better done that was in Bull Durham.
In fact, virtually all of Summer Catch feels like it's been done better somewhere else. For starters, the film has a major question of identity. It's definitely not a sports movie, and it fails pretty miserably at being a romance. The worst part is the amateurish script (co-written by an Arli$$ writing alumnus and a guy that starred in Leprechaun 3), chock-full of phony emotion. By the end, it all becomes a platform for each character to deliver a soliloquy to Ryan that he must take to heart. Dad is on hand to give fatherly yet drunken advice. Coach (Brian Dennehy, just loving the fact that he's got some work on the big screen) is on hand to give the curmudgeonly counterpoint. Ryan's catcher (Matthew Lillard, playing himself again) is on hand to tell Ryan to "play catch" with him and make fun of the fat fetish guy. Ryan's stoner best friend is on hand to give the go-get-'em-tiger-we're-behind-you talk. And the girlfriend is on hand to give heartwarming-nuzzly-follow-your-dreams counsel. Before long, you start to wonder: Is Freddy Prinze Jr. is capable of having a thought of his own?
Don't answer that.
The only real joy in the film is found in Biel's character, and not just because of the skimpy outfits, which are also usually wet. She's the only one in the movie that is able to do much with her role, taking the rebelling-against-daddy character to at least a passing grade. When she's on screen, the time flies by. When she's not, you realize that for some ungodly reason this movie is almost two hours long. For a PG-13 teen romance (despite near-constant sexual innuendo), one has to ask Warner Brothers: what were you thinking???
For her part, Biel has fallen so far from her 7th Heaven roots that she has almost become Denise Richards. Hollywood is either about to eat her alive... or vice versa. Either way, good luck, Jessica. As for Freddie, if he keeps pumping teen romances out at the rate of two a year, Prinze's next "summer catch" is liable to be a venereal disease.
Summer Catch fans (you're out there, right?) will find bonus footage on the DVD, along with a decent commentary from Biel, director Mike Tollin, and writer John Gatins. Alas, no extra Biel footage, if you catch my drift...
Run time: 108 mins
In Theaters: Friday 24th August 2001
Box Office USA: $19.0M
Box Office Worldwide: $19.7M
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Production compaines: Tollin/Robbins Productions, Warner Brothers
Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 8%
Fresh: 7 Rotten: 84
IMDB: 4.9 / 10
Director: Michael Tollin
Starring: Freddie Prinze Jr. as Ryan Dunne, Jessica Biel as Tenley Parrish, Fred Ward as Sean Dunne, Matthew Lillard as Billy Brubaker, Brian Dennehy as John Schiffner, Jason Gedrick as Mike Dunne, Brittany Murphy as Dede Mulligan, Bruce Davison as Rand Parrish, Marc Blucas as Miles Dalrymple