In Summer Catch, what begins as an entertaining premise--an inside look at Cape Cod's elite summer baseball league, where the most gifted amateur and college players compete for the attention of major-league scouts--quickly stumbles into a sappy love story involving a self-destructive, blue-collar pitcher, Ryan Dunne (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) and a sophisticated Vassar grad, Tenley Parrish (Jessica Biel). Primarily to blame for this mess is the leaden script by Kevin Falls and John Gatins, which absorbs a bushel of baseball clichs while demonstrating a singular inability to present love, sex or even bawdy jokes. There is a particularly gross scene in which Beverly D'Angelo embarrasses herself and a frightened, naive ballplayer by putting on a negligee, summoning him to her bed, and asking him to hand her a cucumber.

Since we know from the moment Parrish begins to chase Dunne (we're supposed to be surprised that girls chase boys) that they will run into each other's arms at curtain--not a terribly exciting clinch considering the actors' severe performance limitations under Mike Tollen's wooden direction--the most meaningful relationship in Summer Catch turns out to be between rival pitchers on the Chatham team, Dunne and Eric Van Leemer (Corey Pearson). Van Leemer wears the hottest red-green-yellow splattered glove this side of Jackson Pollock, and is not content to out-pitch Dunne, but derides him constantly, calling him 'lawn boy,' a reference to the Dunne family landscaping business. The only strong feeling this film generates is hatred for the sneering Van Leemer, but, alas, his competitive relationship with Dunne is never resolved. Instead, the screenwriters come up with a contrived fire that results in Van Leemer being booted off the team. That gives our hero an undeserved opportunity to star in a key game. Having screwed around all summer, Dunne buckles down for this last chance, throwing a no-hitter until the eighth inning when, in a moment of staggering improbability, he takes himself out of the game so he can intercept his San Francisco-bound honey at the airport.

--Bruce Feld