" Sure we coulda been famous and made albums and stuff, but that would have been predictable "
— Robert Arkins, The Commitments

MRQE Top Critic

Wild Hogs

The movie manages to stay on course but the DVD's extra features are road kill —Matt Anderson (DVD review...)

Three middle-aged guys drag their Wild Hogs across country

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Throw it back!

Friends and Lovers

Smith displays his literary prowess by spouting off quotes from Celestial Seasonings packages
Smith displays his literary prowess by spouting off quotes from Celestial Seasonings packages

Catch and Release is a fairly pointless and mostly annoying attempt at a romantic comedy/drama. At least its setting, Boulder, looks good. The story starts off at a funeral, where Gray (Jennifer Garner, Catch Me If You Can) is mourning the loss of her fiancé, Grady.

Overcome by emotion, she escapes the attention of her friends and loved ones and seeks solitude in the bathtub, drawing the curtain closed for a wee bit more privacy.

She gets her peace until schmoozie Fritz (Timothy Olyphant, The Girl Next Door) enters the bathroom with a funeral floozie and they hump on the bathroom sink. Yes, folks, this is the tender, heartwarming tale that is Catch and Release.

After that sexual escapade concludes, Gray and Fritz, a long-distance friend of Grady’s from Los Angeles, argue about the meaning of friendship. But it’s a short-lived spat and all-too-soon-enough the two dive into their own heated sexual relationship.

It all smacks of 100% pure artifice. And this movie is so squarely anti-romantic, it’s no wonder Sony has dumped it into theatres in mid January instead of mid February.

Heartburn

As presented by writer/director Susannah Grant, the story is probably supposed to be about how people aren’t always who you think they are. As things develop, it turns out Grady was having an affair behind Gray’s back and he kept a million-dollar account secret; Fritz, on the other hand, seemed to be such a jerk but, gosh darn it, he’s actually a really swell, genuine fella.

As for Gray, she apparently was a bit too perfect for Grady, hence his affair. So, at a karmic dinner with his mistress, Gray immediately confesses all sorts of nonsense that make her seem more… human. For example, she really, really hopes for large death tolls during natural disasters.

That’s funny. Kinda.

Unfortunately, that bit of quirkiness and looseness is brief. In short, Grant, who has an impressive list of credits, including an Oscar nomination for her Erin Brockovich screenplay, misses the boat with this one.

People’s Republic of Boulder

Boulder doesn’t get much cinematic attention from Hollywood and even here it gets swiped by Fritz, who passes a backhanded compliment by referring to it as a “Patagonia Disneyland.” Nonetheless, the production designer pays enough attention to the details.

That flower on the table? Yeah, its “vase” is actually a Fat Tire beer bottle. There’s also a Bolder Boulder poster in Grady’s house and Fritz at one point sports a Boulder High School T-shirt.

The Sink and Pearl Street Mall get their time in the spotlight and Celestial Seasonings gets loads of free publicity.

Ya see, Kevin Smith (yes, the Silent One in the Jay and Silent Bob saga and best buddies with Ben Affleck, a.k.a. the other half of “Bennifer”) plays a character named Sam. He works at Celestial Seasonings. Or he did, quit, and then came back. Something like that.

Anyway, he’s prone to a couple things: 1) He likes to eat; in fact, he eats in just about every scene. And when he eats, he usually smacks his food. Annoying. 2) He displays his literary prowess by spouting off quotes from Celestial Seasonings packages. He’s the genius who hunts down the quotes for the tea’s packaging.

The Acoustic Movie

While those Boulderite details are there, the big picture is totally out of focus and disjointed; the characters are not particularly funny and the drama is aloof.

For Garner, this is nothing more than an opportunity to spend nearly two painful hours running the weepy gamut from teary-eyed to misty-eyed, with a couple ice-melting smiles thrown in for good measure.

In addition to all the aforementioned annoyances and irritations, the film has no score to speak of. Instead, the movie is almost wall to wall with sometimes perky, sometimes wholesome, always grating acoustic pop. It’s enough for one to cry out and demand some melodramatic, manipulative violin action.

In one sequence a central character yammers away about “chi blockers.” Baby, this movie, a pseudo-Big Chill meets A River Runs Through It, is one mondo chi blocker.