This Friday Night at the Movies, I saw Catch and Relase. Unfortunately. I will tell you from the outset that I do not mind romantic comedies. I enjoy explosions and kung-fu as much as the next guy, but I think a dude can enjoy a romantic comedy while still possessing a manly sensibility. I like examining the structure of the films, to see how the writers move around genre formulas without falling into cliché. Its no easy task to write a believable “Meet-Cute” precisely because the audience knows it is coming and is nearly impossible to surprise. When done right (Love Actually, You’ve Got Mail, Jerry Maguire), the genre can deliver witty films that everyone can enjoy. Catch and Release does it wrong.
The movie wanders aimlessly with almost no sense of narrative conflict or resolution. Okay, fine. Comedies don’t have to be taut thrillers, but Catch and Release has nothing compelling about it to make the viewer care what happens to any of the characters. Plotwise, Jennifer Garner plays a bride whose groom has recently climbed onto that great ski-lift in the sky. His death is so sudden that the wedding is quickly converted to a funeral and the wedding florist has to be turned away. Garner finds herself living with her Poor Dead Fiance’s best friends, and she soon discovers that he was hiding things from her. She also finds herself falling in love with one of his friends.
Sure that sounds compelling enough, and it might have been. But there is no sense of urgency to anything that happens, and the complete lack of dramatic conflict makes tge film seem to just drift along to its ending. The secret the Poor Dead Fiance was keeping involves an affair he was having, and the Other Woman (Juliette Lewis) comes to town to help sort things out. You would think this would lead to some confrontation between her and Garner, and it does. But it only lasts for about two scenes, and then the two are best of friends. Kevin Smith plays one of the roommates, and his “Wacky Fat Guy” act is good for a few laughs, but is not enough to make this movie anywhere near funny enough to qualify as a comedy. At one point he tries to commit suicide in a wildly out of place scene that typifies the movies lack of understanding of the genre. It is too melodramatic to be funny and too stiff and formulaic to be romantic.
The friend that draws Garners romantic attention is played by Timothy Olyphant, who is all kinds of awesome on Deadwood as Sherriff Bullock. He’s a poor choice for the romantic lead here, as his character lacks any of the depth and clenching intensity he is so good at delivering. Garner is passable as the weepy almost-widow and she remains watchable even as the movie begins to drag interminably. But that is not enough. I would much rather watch an old episode of Alias. At least on that show she kicked ass.
Plus, the movie has a kid. But his role is small enough to allow me to see the film without violating any of my rules. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
Avoid this movie like the plague. Don’t bother seeing this when you could go see the re-release of The Departed.