Summer Catch serves up baseball about as well as a New York diner does grits. Baseball here is merely a tired backdrop for a gaudy summer fling—in much the same way as a lawyer’s office provides the backdrop for prime-time shenanigans on Ally McBeal. That said, Ryan Dunne has always wanted to be a major leaguer. Growing up in Cape Cod, a center fielder’s throw from where college players play each summer for the pro scouts, he’s had baseball in his blood for as long as he can remember. And now it’s his turn. He’s on the mound pitching for the Chatham A’s with dollar signs in his eyes. Naturally, he’s got to overcome a tendency to “self-destruct” somewhere around the 8th inning. But you’re pretty sure he’ll succeed in that big scene toward the end of the movie. Out of uniform, Ryan plays sex games with town tramp Dede, then falls for rich girl Tenley and has to decide if she’s just a distraction from the big time or if she is the big time.
positive elements: Ryan gives up a no-hitter to chase Tenley to the airport (it’s the beginning of a beautiful, saccharine scene). Cynicism aside, he does choose her over fleeting glory that he knows won’t satisfy. Ryan’s buddy lectures him on how hard work, loyalty and friendship count for a whole lot more than a cushy contract. “It’s not just about a paycheck,” he cajoles, “it’s about having pride in what you do.” Tenley encourages Ryan as well, telling him, “You have to allow yourself to succeed.” In turn, Ryan urges Tenley to pursue her dreams of becoming an architect. Ryan’s dad, while an occasional drunk, comes around and supports his son.
sexual content: In a word: randy. Visual and verbal innuendoes are far more specific and lewd than this reviewer expected. And many of the implied sexual encounters involve alcohol. One is between an older woman “preying” on a virginal young college boy (her fellatio skills are the subject of grand jest at the local watering hole). A ball player announces to the world that he is hopelessly attracted to adipose women, reveling in rolls of fat, large breasts and heavy thighs. He’s shown grappling in bed with one woman who’s clad only in a g-string and a bit of lingerie. In an opening scene, Ryan vows to his friends that he’s off booze and women for the summer. His resolve collapses within hours. Dede frolics with him on the baseball field, pouring beer into his mouth from between her legs and eventually waking up in his sleeping bag wearing his clothes. He dons her thong bikini and runs around the park. A stunt one of his friends copies later. Tenley spends most of her time in her pool sporting skimpy bikinis. In one scene she strips down to underwear and a T-shirt. Lots of cleavage and glimpses of a nude man running on a beach are also included.
More troubling than the specific sexual content, however, is the message that sexual trysts accelerate one’s athletic abilities. A buddy nicknamed Bru can’t get a hit on the diamond to save his life until he beds Dede (in much the same manner as Ryan did). Sexual misbehavior is cheered; virginity jeered. Indeed, sleeping around holds so little stigma that Tenley is ambivalent—even attracted—to Ryan’s promiscuous ways. On the couple’s initial meeting, Dede shows up and playfully demands that Ryan return her thong. He says that he cannot. Why? He’s still wearing it, he blurts. Talk about a turnoff. Any self-respecting woman in the world would head for the door. Not Tenley. She’s as googly-eyed over Ryan as ever.
Women are degraded and objectified throughout. When Tenley cuts Ryan’s grass wearing a skimpy outfit, Bru leers at her and asks Ryan what else one could need in a woman other than some beers hanging around her neck. Ugh. Sadly, it’s teen girls who are flocking to see this latest Freddie Prinze Jr. flick.
violent content: Ryan shoves his dad out of the way in a fit of anger. Players push and shove on the field. Carousers accidentally set a building on fire.
crude or profane language: Beyond the abrasive anatomical slang and vivid sexual innuendo, writers include one f-word and eight s-words. Add to that about 10 each of milder profanities and misuses of God’s name.
drug and alcohol content: Ryan and his pals down frat-party quantities of beer. But where are the hangovers? Players head straight from practice to the bar, load up late into the night, then arrive ready to rumble the next morning. Are we really supposed to believe that the majority of the best and brightest in college baseball booze it up before big games? And as mentioned earlier, Dede loves to mix hard drinking with sex.
other negative elements: Bru jokes about breaking wind in the umpire’s face and flashes an obscene hand gesture at Ryan while signaling pitches. Mean jokes are traded about overweight women.
conclusion:“Our movie is about baseball at its purest,” says director Michael Tollin. “It will hopefully remind people how and why they fell in love with the game.” Huh? Thirtysomethings who have fond memories of drinking their way through college may enjoy Summer Catch as a wicked trip down hazy lane, but baseball fans focused on purity? Never.
As for its more-than-suggestive sexual content, that would fit right in at a sleazy frat party, too. 7th Heaven’s Jessica Biel has spent much of the past year berating herself for posing nearly nude for Gear magazine. Now she’s starring in a movie that dances to the exact same beat as Gear. Biel’s Tenley may be the most noble character in the film, but that’s small consolation. She’s still exploiting herself and hurting her fans. Is strutting in slow motion across the big screen—barely clad in a micro-bikini—so very different than full-page glossies?