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'Catch & Release' - 'Mr. Yummy' a perfect pick for Valentine-theme chick flick

By: M.V. Moorhead

Feb. 3, 2007

If you and your sweetie can remain civil to each other while braving a trip to the modern multiplex together, I salute you this Valentine season. You’ve got a relationship of above-average strength.

But if you’re looking for a good cinematic Valentine—a chick flick, in other words—from among the grim crop currently on our nation’s screens, your choices are limited: Stephen Collins romances Diane Keaton in Because I Said So, opening Feb. 2; Eddie Murphy romances Eddie Murphy (in a dual role) in the lowbrow comedy Norbit, opening Feb. 9; Hugh Grant romances Drew Barrymore in Music and Lyrics; and Idris Elba romances Gabrielle Union in Daddy’s Little Girls, the latter two opening on Valentine’s Day.

But none of these have been screened at this writing. The only love story in wide release right now is Catch & Release, a rather melancholy comedy-drama about starting life over from scratch.

The movie begins with grief. A lovely young woman named Gray (Jennifer Garner) has just lost her fly-fishing fiancé, Grady, in an accident on a bachelor-party trip with his buddies (the possibility that the forces of nature were simply rejecting the union of a couple with those two first names is never discussed).

Needing a place to stay, the stricken Gray moves in with Grady’s two roomies and best pals (Kevin Smith and Sam Jaeger), and almost immediately begins to learn that there was much about her beloved that she never knew.

He was much richer than she realized, for instance, and he was regularly sending some of that money to Maureen, a ditzy Californian massage therapist (Juliette Lewis). Maureen’s son (Joshua Friesen), who’s a ringer for Grady, is only four years old, even though Grady and Gray had been together for six years.

Gray also gets to know Grady’s old friend Fritz (Timothy Olyphant of HBO’s Deadwood), a director of TV commercials and a fairly major hottie—early on, a woman in the film refers to him as “Mr. Yummy,” and my wife assures me that he lives up to the moniker.

Before long, Fritz and Gray begin a furtive affair, but are they in love or just clinging to each other for solace in the face of a stunning loss?

This and other dramatic questions are sorted out against the backdrop of Boulder, Colo., and some gloriously beautiful mountain streams where Gray and her friends go to recreate.

Despite the high-concept drama of situation, the script and direction, both by Susannah Grant, keep things rather tame and easygoing. With the attractive actors bantering in front of the attractive scenery, there are times when we might almost be watching an episode of Desperate Housewives.
This isn’t so bad, either—after all the agonies of the past cinematic year, the unhurried pace of this film, and its lack of breast-beating histrionics, prove rather relaxing.

Garner is charming, as usual, and makes Gray a likable heroine without any actressy milking of her grief. Olyphant plays it even closer to the vest, sidling through the movie behind a wary smile.

The real fun in Catch & Release comes less from this handsome, circumspect pair than from the scruffy supporting players—Smith as the indolent layabout pal, Jaeger as Grady’s business partner who carries a torch for Gray, Lewis as the well-meaning masseuse, Fiona Shaw as Grady’s seething mother.

Catch & Release is far too safe and undemanding to be a work of any real depth, but Grant and her actors cast a gentle spell by which I, at least, was pleasantly enchanted.

After it was over, I didn’t think it was all that much of a movie, but while it was playing, I was lost in it.


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