Catch & Release review by Mike Long

"Chick-flick" is a term which gets thrown away a lot these days, and chick-flicks are very easy to spot. The main character is a woman who is facing a serious problem (typically of the romantic sort, but sometimes it can be more serious) who has a group of friends/relatives who rally around her. However, if you look deeper, there's a trend in chick-flicks which one typically doesn't find in movies geared towards men -- they often deal with really depressing situations. While guy movies can be dark and violent, chick-flicks can be simply sad. A case in point is the Jennifer Garner vehicle Catch & Release.

As Catch & Release opens, we meet Gray Wheeler (Jennifer Garner), a woman involved in a tragic situation. Just days before her wedding, her fiance is killed during his fishing trip-based bachelor party. Thus, instead of a wedding, we find Gray attending a funeral. The death puts her life into a tailspin, as she can no longer afford the house where she and her husband-to-be were going to live. She's forced to move in to the house which was previously occupied by her fiance -- which she'll share with housemates, Sam (Kevin Smith), who works for an herbal tea company, and Dennis (Sam Jaeger), who had worked with her fiance in a fly-fishing company. Fritz (Timothy Olyphant), an old friend of the deceased who is in town for the funeral, is also staying at the house, and his apathetic attitude rubs Gray the wrong way.

As Gray attempts to put her life back together, she discovers some oddities in her fiance's financial records. As she digs deeper, she discovers that there is a mysterious woman lurking in his past. In the meantime, Gray is also striving to help her friends deal with the grief. During all of this, she finds herself becoming oddly attracted to Fritz.

That synopsis doesn't begin to describe how much activity occurs in Catch & Release. There is a lot happening in this movie. Actually, there's too much happening in this movie. The film attempts to fully explore the lives of Gray, Dennis, Sam, Fritz, and two other characters. To me, Catch & Release felt like a full season of a TV series which has been condensed to two hours. The result is a movie which tries to include a great deal of character development, but feels as if many things are left out. Some of these are plotholes, such as a character's suicide attempt which is never explained, while others are simply mysteries, such as the fact that none of these characters ever go to work, despite the fact that financial issues are discussed.

This also gives the movie a meandering quality. Clearly, the movie has a central plot -- woman tries to deal with the sudden death of her fiance and learns that he lead a double life. Fine, that sounds like a solid movie. But, writer/director Susannah Grant so badly wants to delve into the lives of the characters that she allows the film to wander off course. Again, it's like watching a TV show, particularly something like Lost, where you get the feeling that the people behind the camera are saying, "Oh yeah, we need to get back to the main story!"

If you can wade into the layers of the story, Catch & Release does have some good qualities. The cast is particularly good, especially Garner in the lead role. This isn't the gregarious girl from 13 Going on 30 or the crime-fighter from Alias. She does a fine job of conveying the sadness of this woman. She doesn't cry much, but she often looks lost and slightly disheveled. Kevin Smith doesn't exactly excel at the dramatic moments, but he does give the film a much needed comedic touch. The movie does contain some genuinely funny moments, but I was surprised that the emotional scenes come off as somewhat hollow. The movie does contain one good twist, which I never saw coming, but the ending is a bit too trite.

When Catch & Release opened in theaters earlier this year, I was surprised that it opened at number 4 (it's even more surprising/disappointing that Epic Movie opened at number 1). The film's trailer made it look like a bitter-sweet movie which had some funny moments. Maybe movie-goers caught wind of the fact that the movie was much more of a drama than a comedy, or perhaps the interesting cast didn't catch their eye. Whatever the case, there is certainly an audience out there for Catch & Release, as the movie, despite its flaws, does ultimately tell an interesting story...but that audience probably doesn't consist of too many men.

Catch & Release doesn't make it to the wedding on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The DVD contains both the widescreen and full-frame versions of the film. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 2.40:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain nor any defects from the source materials. This is one of the better transfers which I've seen recently, as the picture looks fantastic. There are no overt issues, such as artifacting or video noise, and the colors look great. In short, the picture is crystal clear and has an incredible amount of depth. (Too bad all of this is happening in a drama!) The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track, which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Being a dialogue-driven drama, the bulk of the audio comes from the center and front channels. There were some occasional music cues and crowd noises from the rear speakers, but there was essentially no subwoofer action.

I've noticed that when a movie is a box-office disappointment, the DVD doesn't have many extras and Catch & Release appears to be continuing that trend. The only extras on the DVD are two AUDIO COMMENTARIES. The first features writer/director Susannah Grant and actor Kevin Smith. From the get-go, Smith takes control of this commentary and essentially interviews Grant. If you want to learn about the making of the movie, then this isn't the track for you. But, if you want to hear Smith riff on this woman and say some very funny things, then check it out. We do learn about the film's production from the second commentary, which as Grant with cinematographer John Lindley. And while this talk is good and informative, it feels very dry when compared to Smith's tomfoolery.

6 out of 10 Jackasses

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