Film Review

On the Aisle

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By Tony Macklin

Catch and Release

Don’t worry, Ben. Your marriage to Jennifer is still safe.

“Catch and Release,” Jennifer Garner’s latest film, will not cause Ben Affleck any husband-envy. It’s a harmless romantic comedy that will garner Garner no awards and middling success at the box office. At my daytime, weekday attendance, I was the only person in the theater.

Unlike Chad Lowe (Mr. Hilary Swank) and John Stamos (Mr. Rebecca Romijn), Affleck has held his own. In fact, he’s had a good year with his well-received performance in “Hollywoodland.” So Ben and Jennifer are not threatened yet by career monsters.

“Catch and Release” is the kind of film I should hate. It certainly has its hate-worthy aspects. The first image of Gray Wheeler (Jennifer Garner) at the wake of her fiancé, has her looking constipated. Her prune-like visage is accompanied by a sappy song.

This is an unpromising start. In fact, the whole wake sequence is labored and leaden. It features voice-over lines such as, “How could you leave me with your pervy uncle?”

The script also has lines such as: “You don’t have two nickels to rub together.” I guess in a dime-a-dozen movie, two nickels are acceptable.

Also potentially disastrous are Kevin Smith as a lovable slob — he plays him with all the panache of an unmade bed — and Sam Jaeger. I don’t know what Jaeger’s supposed to be. The dull housemate? If so, he achieves that. But one thing that keeps the movie from being really hateful is that Mark Ruffalo isn’t in it. He’d make it into a kibble ‘n bits movie.

In the role of the sensitive, hesitant suitor Fritz — which Mark would have mangled and mushed — we instead have Timothy Olyphant. He has the requisite bleached teeth, but he doesn’t use them to whine. Thank goodness.

Olyphant, who stars in TV’s “Deadwood,” must have asked his agent for a role with no cursing. He’s got it. A little cursing might help. Usually an actor tries to go from the soft to the hard as he expands his career. Olyphant goes from the harsh “Deadwood” to the pliant “Catch and Release.”

Set in Colorado, “Catch and Release” is the story of a woman (Garner) whose fiancé is killed in a fishing accident, which leaves her adrift. She moves into the house of two of his best chums. A third friend visits from Los Angeles to attend the funeral and the wake.

Garner slowly finds out that she didn’t know her fiancé as well as she thought she did, and she has to deal with each unraveling of his history as it is revealed to her.

Into the mix comes a vegan massage therapist (Juliette Lewis), who holds some of the answers. If this is beginning to sound trite, I guess it is.

The two saving graces are the scenery of Colorado and the fitfully engaging performances. Juliette Lewis is particularly lively as the vegan. There’s also an incorrigibly cute boy who runs in and out of the film. Come to think of it, kibbles ‘n bits might fit.

As much as one knows he should resist Garner’s machinations, she still has those limpid eyes that pull you in. Despite an occasional nice moment with her costar Olyphant here, Jennifer Garner always has more chemistry with her audience than she ever has with any actor in her movies — at least on screen.

The writer and director of “Catch and Release” is Susannah Grant. She received an Oscar nomination for the screenplay of “Erin Brockovich” and this is her directorial debut.

“Catch and Release” has little of the spunk of “Erin Brockovich.” Fritz is reminiscent of the Aaron Eckhart boyfriend in “Erin Brockovich,” but like the movie he has less spine.
Still, “Catch and Release” is a feel good movie.
For about ten minutes.

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