After being abused earlier this year by the idiotic "Head Over Heels," we nearly made it through the summer without a similarly annoying entry in the screen-mediocrity sweepstakes from the not-so-fresh Freddie Prinze Jr. But he's back on the mound in "Summer Catch," which fecklessly mixes elements of "Bull Durham" with every rich-girl/poor-boy melodrama you've ever suffered through. The film is about as appealing as a sexually transmitted disease. (There's even a bad STD joke in the movie, when one dimwit townie confuses clams with crabs.)
First, the worst, during a critical scene late in the film: Aspiring major-league southpaw Ryan Dunne (Prinze) is hoping to keep his cool in front of a group of pro scouts checking out the college-age players spending their summer playing for the Chatham A's of the Cape Cod Baseball League. Ryan, you see, has some self-esteem problems stemming in part from the constant criticisms given by his hard-drinking father (Fred Ward), a groundskeeper for many of the area's most wealthy residents.
Thankfully, Ryan has voices in his head -- and film clips streaming through his mind -- to dispense bits of fail-safe advice. "Believe in yourself," says his brother Mike (Jason Gedrick), a bartender at the local hang-out. "Let yourself be great," says love interest Tenley Parrish (Jessica Biel of the WB Network's "7th Heaven"), the beautiful little rich girl with a thing for the dashing blue-collar boy who cuts her grass. It's one of those moments that's so bad, and meant to be taken so seriously, that it's actually pretty entertaining. Rewind, please.
There's very little about "Summer Catch" that isn't thoroughly predictable, from its setup to its saccharine, unearned happy ending, essentially the last act in the reliable boy-gets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-girl plot construction. Ryan, a pleasant but unremarkable local striver back home after screwing up scholarship opportunities at Boston College and another school, gets another shot at baseball glory with a berth on the A's.
The team's coach (Brian Dennehy) is crusty but goodhearted, a requirement of movies like this. And, yes, as a matter of fact, the players are a motley crew, beginning with catcher Billy Brubaker, the class clown, played by Matthew Lillard, a co-conspirator with Prinze in two bad 1999 movies. Eric Van Leemer (Corey Pearson) is the showy, arrogant kid in the crowd, constantly bragging about his standing offer from the Dodgers. Mickey "Domo" Dominguez (Wilmer Valderrama) is the token shy virgin, regularly avoiding the sexual come-ons of the older woman (an uncredited Beverly D'Angelo) who has opened her home to the players.
Our would-be hero has other distractions to deal with, too, including the attentions of sexy town tart Dede Mulligan, an expert in the art of pouring a beer without using her hands; the anger of Tenley's preppy dad (Bruce Davison); and the true-blue friendship of a couple of Chatham knuckleheads. Hey, sports fans, Curt Gowdy plays himself. Did we mention that Ryan gets the girl?