'Catch and Release' an unfunny comedy


Published: Friday, January 26, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 26, 2007 at 12:10 a.m.

Facts

Catch and Release

RATED: PG-13
STARS: Jennifer Garner, Kevin Smith, Timothy Olyphant
THEATER: Royal Park
*

If it should happen that one day Netflix includes "Catch and Release" among "Movies you'd also enjoy," consider canceling your subscription. The gnomes that control the movie recommendations function are mocking you.
This is a film that set out to be a romantic comedy but became a joke. Not in the ha-ha way, but in the you-poor-thing-I-am-so-embarrassed-for-you way. It's not even much fun to laugh at because you can sense the laziness behind the whole project, the disdain for viewers in every indifferently composed frame and limping line of synthetic banter.
Jennifer Garner stars as a woman named Gray, whose fiance has died in a rafting accident hours before their wedding. We know that Gray is very sad about this because the camera holds an excruciatingly long closeup on her face while Garner grimaces as if she sent a Milk Dud down the wrong hole. Her brow contorts. Her lips scrunch. Her eyes pucker. She could be impersonating Marcel Marceau as he mimes Tragedy.
In Act Two, when Gray emerges from bereavement and begins to have fun with her quirky, supportive friends, Garner communicates her happiness with a boomerang-shaped grin and the frisky body language of a two-month-old puppy with a new squeak toy, only much, much happier. She doesn't gush with enthusiasm, she nearly bursts.
"Catch and Release" charts Gray's voyage from heartache back to thermonuclear perkiness while living with her late boyfriend's former housemates Sam (Kevin Smith, director of the "Clerks" movies) and Dennis (Sam Jaeger, a journeyman TV actor).
Sam wisecracks and runs a blender with the top off; he's just that kind of zany guy. Sam makes goo-goo eyes at Gray. The dead fiance's oily buddy Fritz (Timothy Olyphant, "Deadwood") is also bunking there for an extended post-funeral layover. Gray moves in with them, ostensibly because she can't afford her apartment now, but actually because that kind of zany household mix offers easy comic set-ups involving sex on the living room couch and a roomie in search of a midnight snack.
Writer-director Susannah Grant has no faith in her audience's intelligence. In this film people remind us that the story is set in Boulder, Colo. by wearing T-shirts that say "Boulder, Colo."
The film develops a germ of mystery when Gray learns that her boyfriend had some large financial and personal secrets, but it never supplies us with a reason to emotionally invest in any of the characters. Even the amiable Smith quickly wears out his welcome.
You may ask why our heroine is named Gray rather than Sally. It is so that after she falls into bed with the guy she initially doesn't like but later finds out is not so bad after all she can ask him in a post-coital snuggle session, "What's your favorite color?" and he can reply, "Gray." If that made you chuckle you can stop reading now, because those gnomes at Netflix have your number.

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