Catch and Release
Catch and Release is the sort of movie I'd rather not have to review. Not because I didn't enjoy it—on the contrary, I laughed and almost-cried and rooted for the romance, heartily. It's just that the review process forces the analysis of pesky details like consistent character and plot development. But Catch and Release is best enjoyed on the surface—a big-hearted light-headed story that isn't as deep as it wants to be, but still manages to entertain.
The film opens with the funeral of Grady Douglas, a young man tragically killed in a boating accident days before his wedding. Jennifer Garner (Alias, 13 Going on 30, Elektra) plays Gray Wheeler, Grady's grieving bride, who must bear the heavy irony of burying the man she loves on the day she was planning to marry him. The wake is almost more than Gray can take, particularly when a floral truck bearing the inscription "Flowers for All Occasions" is sent away to exchange bridal bouquets for funeral wreaths.
Misery loves company, and Gray soon finds herself in the company of Grady's closest friends and former housemates. Kevin Smith (Clerks, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) has all the film's best lines as Sam, a Kevin Smith-esque, food-obsessed wise guy with a tender side. Sam still shares the house with Dennis (Sam Jaeger), the reliable and responsible good guy whose emotional burden includes not only grief for his fallen friend but a long-hidden love for Gray. When she can't pay the rent on the home she and Grady were to have lived in together, Sam and Dennis invite Gray to move into Grady's old room and stay as long as she likes.
Gray is unpleasantly surprised to discover that she is not the only houseguest. Fritz (Timothy Olyphant) is a friend of Grady's from L.A., and Gray has seen just enough of him to have him pegged as a sleazy lothario. But when Gray begins to uncover unsettling information about Grady's past, Fritz turns out to be an important source of information. He also turns out to be a different sort of man than she thought he was.
For the most part, it's not too hard to figure out where Catch and Release is going, but getting there is a frequently pleasant trip. With Julia Roberts off having babies and Meg Ryan seemingly in romcom retirement, Garner steps into the void with all the adorable pathos and endearing vulnerability we could ask for. Timothy Olyphant (TV's Deadwood) comes on strong as the roguish Fritz, flashing sly grins to rival Dennis Quaid's and even revealing some rather heart-rending self-loathing early in the film. The chemistry between Garner and Olyphant produces sparks almost dazzling enough to blind us to the improbability—even the unseemliness—of a romance so soon after Grady's death.
Smith's smart but lazy Sam is a familiar character, but Smith makes him both funnier and more nuanced than the stereotype warrants. The sequence in which he awkwardly receives a massage from Juliette Lewis' flaky New Age therapist is worth the price of admission. In fact, Smith steals almost all of the movie, misfiring only once in an unfortunately "serious" hospital scene in which we can feel him acting.