Catch and Release was almost one of those movies that reminds you of how scarce originality is. I say almost, because the trailer for this movie made it look like your typical sappy and insipient rom-com, but it actually isn’t. Now I’m not saying that this fact makes the movie any better, but it does make it different and it does make the approach in which I watch and review it different. The problem is that writer/director Susannah Grant wants the best of both worlds, to try and find a middle ground between light and dancy romance and dark personal comedy. Well so far as these things go, if you try to do both at the same time you end up doing neither very well.
Call it a Funeral and no Weddings if you like, for this is the basic plot premise of Catch & Release. Gray Wheeler (Jennifer Garner) has been widowed before she even got a chance to walk down the aisle, her fiancé having died on the way to a bachelor’s weekend fishing trip. Gray moves in with friends Sam (Kevin Smith) and Dennis (Sam Jaeger) and their house guest Fritz (Timothy Olyphant), and begins going through the motions of the grieving process. Then an unexpected call from a mysterious woman makes Gray realize that her fiancé was leading a double life with secret accounts and hidden cell phones and a kid with an LA masseuse that Gray didn’t know he had.
All-in-all, pretty standard melodramatic soap opera fair handled with the light and breezy feeling that says this kind of stuff happens all the time. Despite the attempts at a down to earth feel, the characters really don’t seem to act the way anyone really would under similar circumstances; not quite cartoonish, but definitely unreal. You really don’t get any sense of time in the movie. Does all this happen over a couple of days or a couple of months? If it’s the former I have to say that Susannah Grant is cruel because not only does she portray a rather snappy hook-up between Gray and Fritz, but the landlord cold-heartedly leaves a note that says “Rent?” on the door of the house that Gray and her fiancé shared. I know, and you thought your landlord was a bastard.
To the credit of the actors goes the fact that you’re not ready to walk out by the time it’s revealed that one of the friends has a pre-existing crush on Gray that shackles him from finding a woman of his own. Garner centres the proceedings well and gets to frequently unveil her devastatingly sweet smile. Olyphant wins as the lovable rogue Fritz. And Kevin Smith shows some acting chops with a great comic relief performance despite his tendency to over use the salutation “sir”. It also helps that Sam and Smith seem to have the same stylist, so I guess a debate could be made as to what degree Smith is playing a character here.
So I guess my verdict for this movie is harmless and I sentence it to go quietly to DVD in 90 days followed by years of playback on TBS. Catch and Release proves that if we need someone to take up the mantle of Julia Roberts in the realm of syrupy sweet romantic comedies, then heavy on the head of Jennifer Garner lies the crown. In an unrelated note, I miss Alias.