Summer Catch

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You can’t blame Freddie Prinze Jr. for his movies being bad. The little guy sure TRIES to act. He’s out there in the new movie, “Summer Catch,” sweating, yelling, laughing and doing all those other actor-y things that real live actors do. He’s giving it his best shot. His best shot falls far short of industry standards, but he is trying.

So it’s not his lack of acting ability that will sink him. It’s his lack of discernment in choosing scripts. “Summer Catch” makes five movies IN A ROW that have hell-awful screenplays. These are movies that COULDN’T have been good, no matter who starred in them.

In the new film, Prinze plays Ryan Dunne, a minor-league baseball pitcher from Cape Cod who gets a chance to play for his local team, the Chatham A’s. He’s flanked by his two childhood friends (Gabriel Mann and Jed Robert Rhein) and becomes good pals with the team’s catcher, the obnoxiously stupid Billy Brubaker (Matthew Lillard).

Ryan’s still just a lowly laborer, though, spending days mowing people’s lawns for his dad’s (Fred Ward) landscaping business. This causes problems with his new flame, Tenley Parrish (Jessica Biel), whose snotty dad (Bruce Davison) doesn’t want her going out with the guy who does their lawn.

This is a movie that cannot decide which lukewarm personal drama it wants to serve, so it throws them all into a casserole. Ryan’s mom died, and his brother (Jason Gedrick) is jealous of his success, and he always chokes when talent scouts are in the stands, and the other pitcher on the team is a jerk, and his girlfriend’s dad thinks he’s beneath them, and on and on and on.

And the comedy is even worse. Through a series of events so contrived and implausible they don’t deserve to be described here, Ryan shows up at the first practice wearing nothing but thong underwear. One of his teammates, meanwhile, woos a fat girl and endures the taunts of his friends. (She’s actually not fat, but since the movie tells us she is, we have to believe it.) Another teammate is pursued by a trashy older woman, who provides some surprisingly crude moments. Matthew Lillard says gross, stupid things like the gross, stupid person he is.

Most characters appear shirtless throughout the film, except in the baseball sequences, which are in rather short supply, considering this is a baseball movie. One senses that if the filmmakers could have found a way, everyone would have been shirtless in those scenes, too.

For cheap drama, clumsy comedy and weak romances, you’ve come to the right place. For entertainment, keep looking. Find something that has not received the kiss of death from Freddie Prinze Jr.

D- (; PG-13, some harsh profanity, sexuality, crude humor and partial nudity.)

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