- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 27, 2007

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit group dedicated to improving the entertainment lives of families, provides reviews of the latest movies from a parenting perspective. For more reviews, click on commonsensemedia.org.

‘Catch and Release’

Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, language and some drug use.

Common Sense Media: Pause. For ages 14 and older.

** (out of five stars)

Running time: 111 minutes

Common Sense review: Even “Alias” devotees who adore Jennifer Garner will be disappointed by this unimpressive dramedy.

Miss Garner stars as Gray, a woman whose fiance, Grady (yes, those are really their cutesy names), dies on his bachelor-party fishing trip, so she spends what would have been her wedding day attending his funeral. After the funeral, Gray moves in with her beloved’s odd-couple roommates — responsible business partner Dennis (Sam Jaeger) and slacker Celestial Seasonings employee Sam (Kevin Smith).

Complicating the new “three’s company” balance is Fritz (Timothy Olyphant), Grady’s womanizing high school friend. Gray can’t figure out why Fritz, a Hollywood director, is still hanging around their Boulder, Colo., bungalow until she finds out that Grady had never revealed a couple of important details about his life: He was a millionaire, and he was sending monthly payments to a woman and her son — his son.

Fritz knew all about the infidelity, but Gray quickly forgives him and even crawls into the living room’s sofa bed with him, in plain sight of her new roomies.

When Grady’s New-Agey baby mama (Juliette Lewis) and son show up wondering where their check is, the story comes even further apart, but writer-director Susannah Grant — an Oscar nominee for writing “Erin Brockovich” — ties up all the loose ends with cliched outcomes that even a seventh-grader could predict.

At least Miss Lewis and Mr. Smith are amusing as, respectively, an airheadish massage therapist who studies Chinese medicine and a robe-wearing, fast-talking layabout who likes to quote sayings printed on herbal-tea boxes. But a few funny lines can’t save this romantic comedy from being forgettable.

Common Sense note: Parents need to know that this isn’t your typical romantic comedy. After the main character’s fiance dies on the eve of her wedding day, she discovers that her husband-to-be hid the facts that he was a millionaire and had fathered a child with another woman.

Out of grief, the characters act recklessly and have casual sex, overeat to the point of gluttony and frequently get drunk. Tweens initially might want to see this because of Miss Garner’s popular comedy “13 Going on 30,” but this “chick flick” features very mature themes including death, infidelity and deceit.

Families can discuss the many ways people keep secrets. What would have happened if Grady hadn’t died? In what ways are all the characters different than they first seem? After the funeral, how do Grady’s best friends help support Gray? What are some examples of the characters acting selflessly?

Sexual content: At his close friend’s funeral reception, a man has sex with the caterer in the bathroom. Two main characters kiss and have sex, but it’s never more explicit than the standard shot of the man’s bare chest and the woman’s naked shoulders under the sheets. A woman gives a man a full-body massage, although that’s implied.

Language alert: Occasional use of curse words.

Violence alert: A woman slaps a man twice out of anger; he responds by forcibly holding her hands against a wall. They then kiss.

Commercialism alert: Sam works at the herbal-tea company Celestial Seasonings, and the brand’s logo is displayed prominently on T-shirts, mugs and around the company’s offices. He also frequently quotes the famous adages printed on the tea boxes. Gray drives a Subaru Outback wagon in several scenes. A 3-year-old has a Happy Meal.

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