Summer Catch

2001, Movie, PG-13, 105 mins


This lightweight, poor boy-rich girl romance seems aimed squarely at adolescent girls, except that baseball plays a pivotal role in the story and, as a group, adolescent girls are notoriously uninterested in baseball. In addition, the series of earnest bromides the film delivers — believe in yourself, stick by your friends, allow yourself to succeed — is enough to turn off any teenager worth his or her salt. Chatham, Mass., native Ryan Dunne (Freddie Prinze Jr.) is a landscaper's son who dreams of a career in baseball as he mows the very field on which he one day hopes to play. How's that for a symbol? Every summer, the cream of college baseball players are invited to play in the Cape Cod Baseball League, which since 1885 has given aspiring athletes the chance to test their mettle. Dunne is the first local boy invited to join the Chatham A's in seven years, and the summer season is his big chance to attract the attention of a major league scout. The crusty-but-kind coach (Brian Dennehy) has rounded up an all-star team of the usual types: Surfer dude Billy (Matthew Lillard, of course); virginal Mickey (Wilmer Valderrama, of TV's That '70s Show); good-natured chubby-chaser Miles (Marc Blucas, of TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer); snotty hotshot Van Leemer (Corey Pearson) and his equally snotty sidekick Dale (Christian Kane, of TV's Angel). Unfortunately, in addition to being from the wrong side of the tracks, Ryan is a screw-up. Haunted by the failure of his father (Fred Ward) and older brother (Jason Gedrick) to rise above their blue-collar roots in a town where rich is rich, poor is poor and never the twain shall meet, he folds under pressure and commits foolish acts of self-sabotage, like getting hammered the night before the first day of practice and showing up in a pair of girl's thong panties. Further complicating matters is Ryan's budding romance with privileged beauty Tenley Parrish (Jessica Biel, of TV's 7th Heaven), whose father (Bruce Davidson) would blow a blue-blooded gasket if he knew his princess was dallying with the lawn boy. With this information in hand, any regular moviegoer over the age of 12 can assemble the plot, right down to the heart-warming finale. A lifelong baseball enthusiast, director and co-producer Mike Tollin (who made the 1995 documentary HANK AARON: CHASING THE DREAM) persuaded many real-life baseball figures to make cameo appearances. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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