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Home » Culture and Criticism

Summer Catch

Submitted by on June 8, 2008 – 11:00 AM9 Comments

Joe R returns with a take on Summer Catch that is less "review" and more "Surgeon General's warning," a measure the film community should considered adopting if only to protect Brian Dennehy from himself. (This is the second crappy summer movie he's turned up in in three days; I would say he's becoming a leitmotif, but…it's Dennehy. He ain't a "leit-" anything.)

Just to get this out of the way: Summer Catch is not a good movie. It's not a good summer movie, it's not a good baseball movie, it is not a good movie. It is a bad movie. It's a very bad movie that wanted very badly to be Bull Durham, but, you know, updated for the kids today. But no matter how many ballplayers wear ladies' underpants, or how many chatty conversations take place on the pitcher's mound, this is no Bull Durham. And Jessica Biel's Tenley Parrish (…Jesus) is no Annie Savoy.

Summer Timeline: Freddie Prinze Jr. gets a summer to play minor-(minor-minor-)league ball, impress some scouts, finally win the approval of his father and brother, and get into the pants of the daughter of the rich guy whose lawn he cuts. He's surrounded by what was a veritable Who's Who of the WB network at the time: Jessica Biel, Matthew Lillard, Marc Blucas, Wilmer Valderrama, Christian Kane, and Brittany Murphy, who I realized while watching this gave the quintessential white-trash performance that forever defined how I thought of her.

Enviable Vacation Locale?: They're on Cape Cod, so fuck yeah it's enviable. I can picture myself there right now, in fact. Screw the rest of the write-up, I'll see you in two weeks…

Coming Of Age: I…guess so. I suppose it'd be easier to tell if Freddie Prinze Jr. could act worth a damn and sell the storyline better. There is absolutely no way to buy him as the self-destructive, moody fuckup that the (admittedly meager and clichéd) story needs him to be. He can barely remember whether he's supposed to have a Massachusetts accent from scene to scene. Emotional complexity is just a bridge too far.

Quick-Burning Summer Romance: The less said about the Prinze-Biel "romance" the better. I would pay her money to stop attempting to cry right now. And may we never speak of that final scene at the airfield ever again.

Unconventional Ways To Beat The Heat?: Do bar fights cool you down? Because they do a lot of bar-fighting. Also a lot of really unrealistic and pedestrian "kinky" sex (anyone who wants to try explaining how Beverly D'Angelo shoving a cucumber up her cooch is supposed to make Fez better at baseball can be my guest).

Quality Of Beach/Summer Fashions: I will say this: the baseball uniform does a lot to flatter folks like Prinze and Blucas and Kane and Lillard. Also, in the interests of full disclosure, I should note that Corey Pearson as the asshole rival pitcher with the terribly frosted poof of hair totally did it for me. No, his particular brand of gum-chomping sarcasm and baseless hatred wasn't breaking any new ground in cinematic villainy, but that didn't stop me from whooping "CUUUTE!" every time he wandered onscreen. …Hey, I had to find something to enjoy in this steaming pile.

Worth The A/C?: Oh my, no. …Though, actually, if you gather together the right mixture of bitchy friends and booze, you might be able to make a go of it.

Overall Suitability As Summer Movie: C

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  • Colleen says:

    This is truly a small nit to pick, but it's not minor-league ball, it's the Cape Cod League. Extremely talented non-professional (usually college) players are invited to play for a summer in exchange for a host family putting them up and the opportunity to play in front of scouts in hopes of improving their draft chances. They aren't paid — that's why they're expected to get a summer job — and they aren't part of a farm system.

    I grew up in Plymouth, MA, just over the bridge, so I've been to too many CCBL games to let that slide. ;)

  • beth says:

    Also, there are a couple of real life Cape Cod Leaguers in the movie. Plus, Ken Griffey Jr, Pat Burrell, Curt Gowdy and Hank f'ing Aaron!
    Not that any of that makes this worth watching, I just feel bad for all those guys getting roped into being in this crappy movie.

  • Joe R says:

    Not to nitpick a nitpick, but: is it a league? Is it minor to other leagues?

    I had originally marked it as Single-A before I remembered that the Cape Cod League isn't part of the MLB farm systems and changed it. I ain't no dummy.

  • Colleen says:

    Technically, to be a minor league team, you must a) be in some way affiliated with MLB and b) pay your players. CCBL is/does neither of those things. It's more equivalent to a really, really, really good beer league, which you wouldn't call minor-league baseball for the same reasons. CCBL, and beer leagues, along with, say, the league the Brockton Rox are in, which is professional, are properly known as independent leagues.

    I mean, you're right, it is "minor" in that it is small, but it's not "minor" as in "-as-opposed-to-the-majors," which is how baseball fans will tend to understand it. Normally I probably wouldn't continue to quibble with you, but CCBL is currently fighting MLB for naming rights, which makes the distinction kind of important.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    I think most baseball fans "understand" minor-league teams as non-major-league teams to which the MLB clubs look for upcoming talent, or send young players for seasoning. The number of current major-leaguers that came out of the Cape Cod league is something like one out of six, so yes, it's an independent league, but it functions in the way most baseball fans probably think of the minors as functioning — grooming/supplying talent that isn't big-show-ready yet.

    Newark Bears, same sort of thing. The Bears aren't affiliated, and the team is usually a couple of name-ish guys (Ozzie Canseco, Bobby Bonds Jr. — Henderson was with them for a while) trying to hang on, and a bunch of kids who will probably top out at AA, but if someone asks me what kind of team it is, I'm saying "minor-league baseball." Because Camden has a team in the division, for God's sake; it's minor in every sense of that word.

    In other words, the distinction is worth making, but calling the CCBL a minor league gets to the heart of what the league does/is for, I think, so in the context of a movie review, I didn't feel the need to make that edit.

    If anyone's interested, "The Last Best League" follows a handful of CCBLers for a summer and is far more interesting and better executed than "Summer Catch."

  • If anyone's interested, "The Last Best League" follows a handful of CCBLers for a summer and is far more interesting and better executed than "Summer Catch."

    But does it have Freddie Prinze Jr. in a thong? I think not.

    Heinous movie, and I say that as a man who is both a sucker for anything vaguely fitting into the Underdog Sports genre, and as someone who didn't object to Jessica Biel hanging around the swimming pool. Just not good at all.

    I would say John C. McGinley looked embarrassed to be there, except he was clearly too busy looking over at Hank Aaron and thinking, "Hey, they're paying me to hang out with Hank Aaron!"

  • Lesley says:

    Um, yeah, I saw this in the theater with a friend who was massively crushing on Prinze at the time, and I had hot flashes everytime Corey Pearson was onscreen. Good to know I'm not the only one who noticed his, er, charms.

  • Karen says:

    As the one Buffy fan in America who loved loved loved Riley Finn, I of course had to see this (although I had the good sense to wait until it came out on cable). Imagine my dismay to see the "obesity makes me hot" storyline they gave him.

    To have to suffer that IN ADDITION to Freddy Prinze jr and the loathesome Biel (Dear Esquire: if you want to know why I let my subscription lapse, think back to when you voted La Biel the sexiest woman alive) was simply too much.

    It is a LOATHESOME movie.

  • Sandman says:

    Hey, I always thought Riley Finn got a bad rap. The way the character was written might charitably be called inconsistent; I wasn't convinced the writers knew what to do with him, but Blucas did what he could with the part.

    Was that enough to induce me to watch this movie? What am I, a crazy person?

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