Striking out

Summer Catch is really two stories. One is about young talent Ryan Dunne's experience in a prep baseball league in his home town, the only local to make it in the last seven years. The other story revolves around his new relationship with rich girl Tenley Parrish, whose lawn he and his dad have been taking care of for years. Both storries revolve around a class struggle. The major league prospects on the team have been nurturing an all-star attitude for years, and this blue-collar local is an uncomfortable fit. Similarly, Tenley's father believes nothing good will come from this relationship with someone beneath her. Predictably, both storylines come to a head at the last big game of the season.

The film insists forcefully that its problems are real, but I never quite felt they were. If you'll pardon the metaphor, the needs of a screenplay are similar to those of the prosecution in a trial - you have to present evidence to support your position. Here, young Ryan is supposed to be having a mental block in regards to his pitching. We see the result of it - games that show promise but fall apart at the end - and we see people talking about it. His mother's death is put forth widely as one of the causes of this problem. Yet, I never really felt it. To a lesser extent, we also have the classist notions from Tenley's father that has no immediate motivation other than plot - by now, we're all used to seeing stereotyped characters like this, requiring little, if any, depth because the audience will recognize their role. The evidence presented here is largely circumstantial. The film fails to make its case.

A large portion of the responsibility falls on the script here. I do find it interesting to consider Freddie Prinze Jr's place in this, though. He has been an up-and-coming star based largely on a certain on screen presence, and his appeal to a young female demographic. As Ryan, he gets a role with more breadth to it than the typical romantic comedy he gets cast in. To his credit, his acting is believable, perhaps the best I've seen him, but I wonder if this wasn't a missed opportunity for him to fill in the gaps of the script with his performance. Acting is more than delivering lines, and it would have helped to see Ryan's confidence issues play out across his face.

We are left with a largely forgettable flick that had a fair amount of potential. One bright spot is yet another strong bit character from Brittany Murphy, but her screen time is too slim to make a real difference to the final verdict.

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