Get our free newsletter
Mourning the man who died just before he was to marry you is a daunting prospect, which must be why writer-director Susannah Grant gives this movie’s protagonist so little time to do it. Sensitive Colorado beauty Gray (Jennifer Garner) is introduced at the funeral of her fiancé, Grady, where she hides in a bathtub to cry—only to be interrupted by a catering waitress and one of the dead man’s best friends, who lurch into the bathroom to screw. That moment—a queasy blend of sentiment and PG-13 slapstick—exemplifies this romantic dramedy’s approach. Gray rarely gets to shed more than a few tears before somebody falls down, breaks something, or turns on a blender without a correctly placed lid. Almost immediately after Grady’s death, Gray faces the romantic overtures of her lost love’s three closest pals: quiet, earnest Dennis (Sam Jaeger); womanizing cutie Fritz (Timothy Olyphant); and supposedly endearing loudmouth slob Sam (indie auteur Kevin Smith, delivering lines he seems to have generated himself). Gray also has to deal with financial surprises, a calculating woulda-been mother-in-law (Fiona Shaw), and airhead massage therapist Maureen (Juliette Lewis), who arrives from Los Angeles with a 3-year-old boy she says Grady fathered. Plus, the guys are creating a “peace garden” in Grady’s honor, there’s lots of local scenery to display, a new indie-pop snippet arrives every 45 seconds, and the title metaphor—Grady and Dennis ran a fly-fishing business—just won’t quit. Grant has written a variety of chick flicks, including Erin Brockovich and In Her Shoes, and she makes her feature-directing debut here. Attempting to prove she has a director’s vision, she places lots of incidental objects at the front of the frame. But to judge by this piece of Hollywood off-season jetsam, Grant’s eye is sharper than her pen. Even more distracted than its heroine, Catch and Release barely takes time to grieve before plunging desperately into farce.