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The way to a woman’s heart is through her shattered psyche

By Aaron Zundel

“Catch and Release”Sony PicturesDirected by Susannah GrantWritten by Susannah GrantStarring: Jennifer Garner, Timothy Olyphant, Kevin Smith, Juliette Lewis and Sam JaegerRated PG-13/114 minutesOpens Jan. 26, 2007Two out of four stars

Who could resist falling in love with a guy who casually screws bimbos in the bathroom at his best friend’s funeral? What if he goes by the moniker “Mr. Yummy?” Apparently not Gray Wheeler, Jennifer Garner’s character in the new movie “Catch and Release.”

Wracked by grief at the unexpected death of her fianc, Gray Wheeler (whom Garner plays poutily and unsympathetically) spends pretty much the entire movie wallowing in self-pity, soliciting self-pity and then wallowing in more self-pity. When she’s not wallowing, however, Gray discovers that her dead fianc was not only secretly rich, but also in an illicit relationship with a skank-job L.A. masseuse (played, big surprise here, by Juliette Lewis). Enter Fritz (AKA “Mr. Yummy,” played by Timothy Olyphant), television commercial director, best friend of said dead fianc and secret facilitator of the fianc/skank-job affair.

Written and directed by Susannah Grant, the writer of such films as “Erin Brockovich” and “28 Days,” “Catch and Release” would have its audience believe that it is a quirky, sweet romantic comedy.

But that’s a lie.

“Catch and Release” would best be described as a slick, self-indulgent ad campaign aimed at empowering young women everywhere to abandon any suitor of character and date the lowest common denominator?because, you know, he’s not really an ass. Deep down he’s really sweet. And that “Mr. Yummy” stuff in the bathroom? That’s OK. Poor guy just missed his dead best friend so much that he wanted to feel like he was anywhere other than at that funeral. And, honestly, if he’s cute enough, who couldn’t forgive, and immediately fall in love with, a guy whose only crime is hiding your dead fianc’s infidelity from you?

Forget the fact that the dead fianc’s body is still warm.

One could understand Gray’s actions if, perhaps, despite being an ass, “Mr. Yummy” was the ONLY ass. In point of fact, however, Gray happens to share a house with one of her dead fianc’s OTHER best friends, Dennis (Sam Jaeger)–who just so happens to be successful, handsome, well adjusted and madly in love with her. Not impressed by any of that, however, Gray decides to stick with “Mr. Yummy” and finishes the movie by driving out to California and into his smarmy “What took you so long?”

Wow. But who says movies aren’t realistic?

Just in case anyone misunderstood me, the moral of the film is simple: If you’re a woman, remember that the best men, the ones really worth having, are morally bankrupt womanizers who will make you feel good about yourself because they treat everyone else so badly. And for guys, it says we need to cash in our character and get ourselves equally bankrupt, unless we want to spend the rest of our lives drinking Merlot alone in the dark.

I shudder to think that hundreds of thousands of teenagers will see this movie this weekend.

Seriously, though, what makes this movie such a tragedy is that interwoven with the failure that is the main plot is some really great stuff. Kevin Smith, for one, is very funny in his first major role as the dead fianc’s OTHER other best friend, Sam. For a guy who claims to be a terrible actor, usually directing his own films and historically only stepping in front of the camera when he plays the infamous mute “Silent Bob,” Kevin Smith makes “Catch and Release” bearable, and even enjoyable at times. To be honest, it’s not only unthinkable, but actually kind of fun to see a (relatively) profanity-free movie in which Kevin Smith won’t shut up and Juliette Lewis keeps her clothes on.

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