'Summer Catch' is minor league
By Jack Garner
Gannett News Service
100 minutes, Rated PG-13 with implied sex and innuendo
Freddie Prinze Jr. and Matthew Lillard head the cast of a saga that clearly aspires to be the latest flick to spice sports with sex.
"Summer Catch" pitches more clichÚs than strikes, and seems ultimately doomed to end up a very minor-league video rental.
The hyper-hormonal saga is set in the Cape Cod Baseball League, where college and local players gather each summer, trying to impress major league scouts.
Prinze stars as Ryan Dunne, a local boy with promise as a pitcher. He's anxious to prove himself on a baseball field where his greatest accomplishment to date has been to cut the grass.
He's been chosen by the Cha-tham coach (Brian Dennehy) for a chance to compete with the hot-shot college boys who come to town each summer.
Ryan and his father (Fred Ward) are lawn-cutters and handymen. And Ryan's brother (Jason Gedrick) is a baseball washout who now tends bar at the local saloon.
Thus, the film's threadbare subplot takes shape: Ryan is from the other side of the tracks trying to crack the intimidating world of college-boy athletes and rich summer-vacationing women.
Does our blue-collar hero have what it takes to compete with the collegians?
Can he win the heart of Tenley Parrish (Jessica Biel), the sexy Vassar grad who's spending the season at her wealthy parents' elegant summer home?
Is a baseball round?
Newcomer Mike Tollin directs with minimum flair and little sense of drama. He focuses his cameras more off the field than on, as he explores two basic themes the across-the-tracks romance; and a curious concept that each of the Chatman ballplayers only starts to succeed on the field after they've made a conquest off the field.
Tollin allows his film to drift aimlessly from slapstick humor (the fat girl breaks the bed) to the sappiest of sports moments.
The baseball in "Summer Catch" seems to be almost an afterthought. Filmgoers are treated to only a few innings from each of a handful of key games.
That's probably fortunate, because the young actors don't seem particularly comfortable on the field. Prinze is a bit jerky as a pitcher and the lanky Lillard's baseball stance is all elbows and knees.
Despite a few laughs, one or two appealing characters, and capable work from Dennehy and Ward, "Summer Catch" is a foul ball.