Reviewing the Reviews: 'Catch and Release'

Catch_lThere’s something a little fishy about Catch and Release. Okay, that was a groaner, but no worse than those from several critics who responded to the Jennifer Garner (pictured) romantic comedy with "Throw it back" puns. Yet even reviewers who liked the movie couldn’t help but puncture their praise with sharp mentions of the film’s shortcomings. For instance, The Onion A.V. Club‘s Scott Tobias’ kind words for the "enormously appealing cast" come sandwiched between two mentions of the movie’s "unfortunate sitcom characterization." The New York Times‘ Stephen Holden finds Catch refreshing  for its lack of "whiny princess-mongering" but still finds the film struggling for basic credibility." And the Christian Science Monitor‘s M.K. Terrell writes, "Viewers may find its mix of pathos and humor loose and lumpy, but then isn’t that how life is?" Why, yes, that is how life is. Also, day-old Cream of Wheat.

For many critics, Garner is upstaged by comic-relief player Kevin Smith; in fact, they seem surprised that Silent Bob can deliver a convincing speaking performance in a film he didn’t write. "Jennifer Garner may possess the hardest working eyebrows in show business, but Kevin Smith gets the acting kudos," writes the Chicago Reader‘s Andrea Gronvall. "Kevin Smith nearly walks off with the movie as Sam, displaying a surprising range and earning most of the movie’s biggest laughs," says the Los Angeles Times‘ Kevin Crust. Desson Thomson of the Washington Post doesn’t seem to notice Smith but is definitely not fond of Garner’s performance: "Throughout, she retains a permanent grimace, as if persuasive acting can be achieved by contorting cheek muscles and pouting lips. It’s not just depressing to watch; it’s tiring. We want to tell her to relax — for our own relief."

addCredit(“Catch and Release: Doug Curran”)

Aren’t these mean reviewers being too harsh on what’s just a basic date movie? Maybe, but the critics suggest Catch falls short of even the confining genre requirements of a chick flick. "I just don’t know any chick who will make sense of this flick — it’s that blitheringly out of touch with present psychosexual (never mind feminist) time and space," writes EW‘s own Lisa Schwarzbaum. "It’s just another romantic comedy, neither terribly bad nor truly great, buoyed along on currents of hope and post-traumatic good cheer," writes the Austin Chronicle‘s Marc Savlov.

Special mention goes to the New York Post‘s Kyle Smith, who really, really, really doesn’t like the movie and comes up with many colorful ways to say so. "The chick comedy-drama Catch and Release may look bland, but it’s not. It’s worse. To rise to the level of blandness, it would need to have a few gallons of Tabasco dumped into it." And that’s just the beginning. Read the whole thing for an exercise in hilarious hostility.

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  • Cliff

    My pick for master of the groaner review is Claudia Puig of USA Today, who uses at least three fish-related riffs in her piece. She also notes that Smoking Aces director Joe Carnahan should be renamed “Joe Carnage-han”. Laughing yet? The best way to get through a Puig review is to imagine it spoken by Horatio Sanz as Gene Shalit. Someone please STOP HER!

  • JenJen

    On the Ebert and Roeper show, both reviewers gave this two thumbs up. The woman filling in for Ebert even said that Jennifer Garner was more appealing than Julia Roberts.

  • paige

    just read the ny post article. and even though i found it funny in that way that really bad reviews are funny, i was a little dissapointed that the writer was dissing kevin smith on his weight. he couldnt even talk about his acting- just that he’s rather large in a not-so-nice way. the movie isnt even about kevin smith (or about him being overweight), so why go there? thats just f’d up.

  • Jujube

    In my city’s newspaper, they gave this movie and AWFUL review and bad review for her hubby Ben Affleck’s new movie out today to (can’t remember name). Yikes, it will be a depressing weekend in the Garner-Affleck household this weekend.

  • furry_tom

    Man, you’re right, he wastes a whole paragraph bashing Smith about his weight for no reason. Although the reviewer graciously provided a picture of himself for us to mock. “Pre-pubescent movie critic uses rhyming dictionary to come up with catchy headline.”

  • furry_tom

    Or how about “Aspiring Roger Ebert wannabe dumped on the way to prom. Mother consoles him by telling him she thinks he’s cool.”

  • furry_tom

    OK, one more quick one. “Man gets Opie haircut free with a bowl of soup.”

  • Vicky

    My friends want to see Catch and Release. Somethings make me question my friendship with them. This is one of them.

  • fredric

    I haven’t seen it, but just a thought… Are critics perhaps biased against movies they know have been on the shelf over a year and therefore expect the worst, going into the movie already looking for ways to pan it?

  • Candy Cane

    JenJen…so Jennifer Garner is more appealing than Julia Roberts? That’s like comparing sh!t to diarrhea.

  • Ed

    When I saw the previews for this movie I thought, Jennifer? hmmm, not too convincing for me.
    Kevin Smith on the other hand finally has found his nitch. I was starting to believe that he was the “kiss of death” when it came to directing. Maybe he still is when it comes to directing so he should stick to acting.

  • Lauren

    You know, I have trouble watching actors(male and female)whose physical characteristics stand out so blatantly and who do the same things with them in every role. Garner, Jolie, Aniston, Roberts, Clooney, DiCaprio. You can put them in black and white films, in period costumes, in sci fi, in gritty indies but they will still be doing the same thing they were doing when they hit the it list. When will they realize that they can’t and shouldn’t do every role they want to?

  • Nose

    Lauren, I am not sure I get the point you are trying to make. It seems like you are saying that the ‘it’ Hollywood stars should not stray outside of their stereotypical roles, or the roles that made them famous. If that is the point, is this role really that much of a stretch for Jennifer Garner? She has played this kind of role several times before.
    If I missed your point, I apologize.

  • EP Sato

    Agreed that it’s wrong for writers to be dissing on Kevin Smith for his weight. Seems like they just went for low hanging fruit. On the other hand, KS himself has said “I can’t act”. So that folks are saying his performance is better than Jen’s is reason enough to stay away from this one until video.
    And why folks be dissin’ KS’s directing skills? I agree that Jersey Girl was awful but thought “Clerks 2″ was a great return to form.

  • Ned

    I saw this today, I admit, because of Kevin Smith. But it was a very entertaining little flick. Kevin Smith did a fine acting job, but so did everyone else, especially Timothy Olyphant, he steals the movie. As for the idiot critic that critisized Garner for going through the movie with a “permanent grimace”, it makes me wonder if she even saw the movie. The characters fiance had just died, and she discovers things about him she hadn’t known before, her sad expression during a lot of the movie (although not all), is appropriate to the story. I found the film to be funny, and quite touching. Screw the critics, give it a chance.

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