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Dearest Readers, I’ma let you in on a little secret about MG. If you have TMI issues, then click on another review (- or better yet, one of those lovely Google ads on the index page!). Well here it is, Your ever luvin’ Elephant-Head has endured countless hours undergoing intensive therapy. Not for the many reasons that one would immediately presume, but to rid myself of lifelong guilt and suffering. I refer specifically to the anguish I feel whenever I have to rip on a movie made an actor or actress (- or director) I truly like. I am tortured by feelings of disloyalty as if I’ve somehow said bad things about a friend behind their back. Yes, I am aware I don’t actually know these people, but it doesn’t stop me from self-flagellation.

Dear Sydney Bris … I mean Jennifer Garner.  If not for your own sake, but for the kindness I know must be in your heart for the fragile state of another living creature, please stop it with the bad films! Stop it now before the spiral goes out of control, just like that whole season of Alias where you found out you had a very uninteresting sister who ended up as a slightly more interesting zombie.  I loved me some Alias, I was with that show from day one.  I watched it even when you were hardly on for nearly a whole season and long after it made no sense that’s why it hurts me to see you starring in bad movies like Daredevil and Elektra, and now this epic, Catch and Release. 

Ms. Garner, this movie is a mess. It is a mawkish collection of unfinished and clichéd ideas. The plot hinges on your character, alliteratively called Gray, whose wonderful, perfect fiancé, Grady (- like Sanford and Son!) dies suddenly and their wedding day becomes Grady’s funeral. In clearing up his last effects, Gray, discovers Grady (- Gray & Grady, oy!) wasn’t exactly the saint he appeared to be (- Also like Sanford & Son, Shady Grady!). Turns out Grady was sending sums of money from a hitherto unknown vast source, to a massage therapist who claims to be mother to his son. Gray has no friends of her own and ends up living with Grady’s closest chums, Sam (Kevin Smith) and Dennis (Sam Jaeger) (- Finally some normal character names!) in their impossibly large home in relentlessly beautiful Boulder, Colorado. Because two friends of Grady’s hanging around aren’t enough, we also have sleazy L.A. expat, Fritz (- Oh, maaan, “Fritz”? … “Fritz” is played by Timothy Olyphant), who, despite an apparently burgeoning career doing something in TV or films, feels the need to also live with the trio much longer than seems necessary. Let’s see, Gray rebounds badly (- but not convincingly) from her betrayal by her dead future ex-husband, Gray then finds herself attracted to and very quickly in bed with her L.A. connection. Dennis rebounds badly after revealing an unrequited crush on Gray (step away from the planer, young man, although I do enjoy how both bad rebounds result in misguided home improvements.). Sam basically walks around as the film’s alleged comedy relief, until a terribly unconvincing suicide attempt (- more suicidish, I’d say) lets us all know he’s more than just a bunch of occasionally humourous lines and pop culture references, he’s got a soul, dammit! The brilliant Fiona Shaw graces this tumult of melodrama in the thankless role of Grady’s witchy mum. And Juliette Lewis tops things off as the Grady’s babymama.  See? A mess! This is too much of a chickflick for Lifetime television. Any straight male going to see this movie runs the risk of his gonads shriveling away forever.

All these issues are brought up and either tied up with a little stick-on bow by the end of the film or not at all. The question of where the million dollars that Grady has lying in his bank account came from is never answered. In fact, there’s only mild surprise when the cool mil is discovered in the first place. I don’t know about y’all, but find me $5 behind the sofa and I’m doing the Snoopy dance. I still don’t know what Gray does for a living and whatever it is, she can go in & out of work pretty much as she pleases, all the better to schedule nookietime with the oft-times scary looking ( -and scary-named) Fritz. Again, my reality is, (- and more TMI for you) a close relation of mine passed on not too long ago, and all I got was three days off from my job! I will suspend the nitpicking, though it’s asking a lot. Gray comes to find out that all these beloved pals of hers and Grady’s all knew about the existence of the babymama, and they all kept it from her, but she never gets mad at them, or Grady! Gray is crossed and stepped on throughout this whole movie and there’s never a realistic scene of her coming to terms with that. It’s all a watershed for this ridiculous side plot involving Gray’s discovery of Grady’s love (- bootycall?) child and how terribly saintly Gray is in handling it (- I think it’s supposed to have some deeper meaning about Gray accepting the situation and therefore freeing herself - I don’t know, I leave that junk for Oprah), and the romance between Gray and Fritz, which has all the chemistry of a plank of wood. Yet another subplot is a romance that conveniently pops up between wacky Sam and wackier Maureen, the babymama, and his acceptance of her precocious (- read: annoying) little boy; and that romance had more heat on it than the one between the two main stars.  As the movie is called Catch and Release there is an obligatory scene of the characters bonding and severing bonds over Grady’s favourite activity, fishing. In fact, I am under the distinct suspicion that the entire movie is actually a very long infomercial for Boulder tourism. The only truly commendable thing about the film is the beautiful photography of the lakes and mountains of Boulder. I felt like I was watching the Travel Channel. Oh, there’s also great music by BT and Tommy Stinson, but it gets lost in all the mawk.

It’s a lazy director who hires someone presumably as an actor and basically just lets them play themselves. I love Kevin Smith, just adore him. I think I enjoy his interviews and commentaries more than his actual films, and I like those a lot. I was surprised to see him taking a role in this and completely left my mind open. Maybe he felt a change of scene and wanted to try serious acting? You go, Kevin Smith, do yo’ thang. It could be that he’s a better actor than I thought, because it didn’t seem like he was being directed at all. He just seemed like the same Kevin Smith I’ve seen in the aforementioned interviews and commentaries, right down to the Star Wars references. So, if he isn’t actually being Kevin Smith, then Sam must be Kevin’s biggest Stan, cos he stole his entire personality.  I understand from various movie news sites that Juliette Lewis has retired from film following Catch and Release. And while I think hers is the best performance in the movie (- marking on a curve, here), I can totally understand how appearing in this cloying pile of saccharine would make one say goodbye forever. Even you, my adored Jennifer Garner, who I think are absolutely adorable and charming with tons of talent, run out of gas in your own starring vehicle. Gray becomes a spectator in her own story; making way for a plethora of other storylines and subplots that one cannot be convinced to care about. Indeed, even you, Ms. Garner, seem to stop caring; your energy level drops from scene to scene, then just sputters out entirely midway through. And if you don’t care, why should I?

Please, Jen (- I think we’re close enough now that I can call you Jen), you can do better. I’ve seen the glimmer of hope in 13 Going on 30, but you need to get with it on the much improved material, Madame. You're Good Enough, You're Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like You*.

 

~ Mighty Ganesha

Jan. 25th, 2007

 

*Totally cribbed from Stuart Smalley, but so damned appropriate.

 

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