Summer Catch

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Summer Catch

Fallout from the forthcoming teen-pop implosion will no doubt include drastically discounted A.J. McLean dolls, a steady drop-off in web searches for nude pictures of Mandy Moore, and video-store shelves bowing under the weight of Freddie Prinze Jr. vehicles. Summer Catch, the latest entry in the hardworking actor's filmography, places Prinze in the shoes of a working-class baseball pitcher with a checkered, tragedy-filled past. A native of Cape Cod, Prinze has long held a front-row seat to the annual Cape Cod League season, the source of one in six major-leaguers. As the film opens, Prinze has been given the chance to join, and while he has the talent, he must first overcome a series of obstacles: a hotshot, tattooed rival; a hard-drinking dad (Fred Ward) who may not believe in him; a bitter brother (Jason Gedrick) who may not believe in him; a tough coach (Brian Dennehy) who may not believe in him; and the objections of new girlfriend Jessica Biel's affluent dad (Bruce Davison). They all haunt Prinze with Obi-Wan Kenobi-like voiceovers as he stands on the mound, greeting each thought with the same look of knuckleheaded puzzlement he wears throughout this and all films. As the script works toward its big-game finale, it pauses now and then to rip off Bull Durham, to let Biel spout Successories-worthy words of encouragement, and to touch on subplots involving Prinze's familiar-faced teammates Marc Blucas, Wilmer Valderrama, and Matthew Lillard. (At last, the stars of Wing Commander are reunited!) Meanwhile, an overqualified cast of grownups—Ward, Dennehy, Davison, Beverly D'Angelo, Hank Aaron—looks on. Right now, Prinze still possesses the cultural currency to maintain a kind of low-level ubiquity, appearing in two or three films a year and gracing the covers of countless teen magazines. As his contemporaries in the music field should soon discover, that road doesn't go on forever.