Ha ha!

You just never know what he'll review next!

Friday 28 August 2015

Burl reviews The End of August! (1981)

Ha ha, Burl here at summer’s end, presenting to you a review of a fairly obscure period self-actualization tale! The End of August is set in New Orleans in, ha ha, and I’m guessing here, the very last bit of the nineteenth century! It’s hard to tell, because every character seems to be from a slightly different time period, and it may be that this is an intentional attempt to create a strange temporal dislocation, or simply that this low-budget production had to take what it could get from the prop and costume houses!
It tells the tale of the “sensual awakening” of Edna Pontellier, a handsome rather than pretty wife and mother of position! Edna has a husband, Leonce, who looks like a riverboat gambler, and a couple of kids who gallop through the shots when it’s convenient, but are packed off to bed or to relatives in the country whenever the film wishes to concentrate on Edna’s awakening!
Leonce, despite his sinister look, is a decent if old-fashioned fellow, increasingly baffled by his wife’s twentieth-century behavior! He consults with, and gets conflicting advice from, a number of different men, but there’s nothing much he can do! Edna gets a crush on the young fellow from next door, but this entity proves flighty and fickle and self-removes himself to Mexico when the going gets semi-serious! Later comes a horse breeder played by Paul Shenar from Best Seller and The Bedroom Window; he proves a more forthright lover!
Meanwhile there’s much talk of some kind of Gulf Shores legend which centers around the 28th of August, much as the back story of The Fog takes place on the 21st of April! Sad to say, however, that no ghosts manfiest themselves here – if any picture could use them, it’s this one!
For it’s slow going, this movie! We get lots of looks at the houses, paddleboats, jetties and carriages the art department discovered or dug up, and all that is fine – ha ha, I preferred it to the scenes of Edna mooning over her neighbor, or acting like a jerk, or to the Age of Innocence-style scenes of tongues clucking at the impropriety of it all!
The acting is largely decent – Paul “Blue Thunder” Roebling is solid as Leonce, and David Marshall Grant not bad as young Robert from next door! Lilia Skala, try as she might, can’t contort her Austrian accent into a Creole one, but it doesn’t hurt her performance much! The big exception, a crucial one, is Sally Sharp, who plays Edna! Frankly, she’s terrible! Unless her character is meant to have time traveled in from 1981, she sounds all wrong for the period, and her line readings are flat and passionless! She also comes across as not a very nice person, even as one sympathizes with all the paternalistic bunkum and honeydew she has to put up with! But whatever her failings as a performer, Ms. Sharp also produced this picture, so I guess the role was hers no matter what!
Ha ha, as early work from the talented cinematographer Robert “Inherent Vice” Elswit, it at least looks pretty nice, though even decent lensing can’t keep the picture from feeling like a poor American cousin to a 1980s-era episode of Masterpiece Theatre! Don’t get me wrong though: it’s not a bad picture, except for that central performance; but it’s a rather lifeless one! There’s a nice score from Shirley Walker, and some fine stylistic touches here and there, and the kind of local seaside atmosphere I was so sorely missing from Summer Catch (a film I’m still very cross at, ha ha!), but on the whole I’ll have to lay back and give The End of August one and a half paddleboats!

Saturday 22 August 2015

Burl reviews Between Friends! (1973)

Hi, eh, it’s Burl, and remember, the girls are playing bingo, the boys are getting’ stinko, and we’ll talk no more of Inco on a Sudbury Saturday night! Ha ha, yes, I’m here to review another 1970s Canadian picture for you, as when I brought you notices on such films as Loving and Laughing, Paperback Hero and Black Christmas! This one is called Between Friends, and it was the third feature film made by a fine director named Don Shebib! Ha ha, I have met this director a time or two, and he seemed to me a pretty nice guy!
Don Shebib is of course the fellow who made Goin’ Down the Road and its belated follow-up Down the Road Again! And you may recall the confusion I spoke of when I reviewed his picture Rip-Off, the second one he made! I knew that Shebib had made a heist picture and a pals picture after his Goin’ Down the Road breakthrough, and it baffled me that Rip-Off should be the friends movie and Between Friends the heist film! But that’s the way it is, ha ha!
It’s less confusing now that I’ve seen them both! Between Friends is very much a movie about friends and the things between them; the heist itself is something of an afterthought! I like a heist picture of course, but I didn’t mind this approach! Be warned, however, that many viewers will spend the bulk of the picture wondering when they’re going to get to the fireworks factory!
It all starts off in California! Michael Parks, well known from Django Unchained and Welcome to Spring Break, is Toby, a former surfing champ who’s now working as a getaway driver for gangsters! He does his bit on a job, says one last goodbye to the beach (where he’s recognized from his surfing days by the most hoser-sounding California surfer dude ever, ha ha!), then amscrays up to Toronto to hang out with his old pal Chino, a California-obsessed dunderhead played by Chuck Shamata from Death Weekend! (And, interesting item, ha ha, Parks and Shamata would co-star again many years later in Death Wish V!)
Chino, ha ha, now there’s a goofnugget! He’s a slightly more big city version of Pete or Joey, but meaner too, and not very nice to his ladyfriend Ellie! She’s a pretty lady played by a young Bonnie Bedelia, whom we know from The Big Fix, Salem’s Lot and Die Hard! Toby arrives at their Toronto abode just as Ellie’s dad Will, an avuncular career criminal played by Henry “The Brood” Beckman, is released from a stretch in (one presumes) the Old Don Jail! He and his little pal Coker (a role essayed by Hugh Webster from The Reincarnate) have a plan to rob a nickel mine up in Sudbury!
Of course Toby is reluctantly pulled into this plan, and double of course a case of romance flares up between Toby and Ellie! Ha ha, this causes a bit of a complication in the robbery plan, which has already been made difficult by the sudden death of Coker! There’s an awful lot of resentful jibber-jabber from Chino, and some vacillation on the robbery itself, but eventually the love triangle make their way up to the slag heaps of Sudbury! Ha ha, not a pretty place!
It looks a bit better these days, and probably did then as well, but it’s pretty clear Shebib actively wanted to hit the trifecta of hyper-depression: Sudbury, wintertime, the Seventies! To that end of course he only filmed in the greyest, coldest-looking, most horrifically grim locations he could find, with plenty of the action taking place among the denuded landscapes surrounding the mines! Ha ha, it’s truly a wasteland!
I don’t suppose it’s breaking much of a confidence to reveal that the heist, when it finally occurs, doesn’t go quite go as planned! So it’s not the most original of stories, but there’s plenty to like about the picture anyway! With the possible exception of Chino, all the parts are pretty well acted! Ellie in particular is the sort of disaffected creation performers like Ellen Page and Kristen Stewart would make their stock-in-trade many years later! “I wish I could meet a man who understands me,” Ellie laments! “God knows I’m not complex!”
It possesses in absolute spades that ineffable style: the one that makes you feel as though you’re in your parents’ living room watching one of the CBC Late Night Summer Movie series; and indeed this probably aired as one! It feels like a Canadian version of a Cassavetes movie, or like a Stan Rogers ballad brought to life! Ha ha, in other words, you should watch it! I’m going to give Between Friends three toilet seat-framed portraits of a weirdly grinning Chino!

Wednesday 19 August 2015

Burl reviews The Bedroom Window! (1987)

Hi! Burl here to review a mystery, and the biggest mystery with this one, ha ha, is why did they bother! Well, maybe that’s a bit harsh, because mysteries like this picture were a dime a dozen in the mid- and later-80s; but still, when I think back on this picture, only a few days after having seen it, I can barely remember a thing about it!
I remember the title, though, bland as it is: The Bedroom Window! The story hinges on a premise I found fairly unbelievable: that international glamourlady Isabelle Huppert would take up with the guy from Police Academy! Yes, Ms. Huppert’s character, a cool Gallic sophisticate, is having an affair with an uber-goober called Terry, played by Steve Guttenberg, who is of course so well-known from his role in The Chicken Chronicles! One evening, while Terry is post-coitally micturating, Miss Huppert hears a strange noise! Outside the window she spies a red-headed stranger putting a brutal grabbing on a young lady, and though this attack is interrupted, our illicit lovers later learn that a second lady was victimized nearby only a short time later – victimized to death!
Thus, the conundrum: how can Miss Huppert, who is married to Terry’s boss, come clean about what she saw? Ha ha, she can’t, or so she says; therefore Terry, who truly seems like the stupidest man on the face of the earth, must pretend he was the witness, even if he was actually micturating at the time! Quickly things turn poorly for Terry: a pair of cops, one played by John Parker himself, Carl Lumbly, the other by Frederick “Hard To Kill” Coffin, begin asking too many questions! His boss – also his inamorata’s husband, don’t forget – gives him the hairy eyeball at every opportunity! And when the case goes to trial, Wallace Shawn, in the same year he did The Moderns and The Princess Bride, appears as the unusually effective defense attorney who exposes Terry as a poor-eye who couldn’t possibly have seen the alleged crime occur! Ha ha, Terry, you nearsighted dumbbell, you’re now suspect numero uno!
Brad Greenquist, a hulking ginger you might have seen in Pet Sematary or The Chair, essays the role of the creepy killer, and he isn’t pleased with Terry’s shenanigans! Neither is the boss, who's played by Paul “Best Seller” Shenar, and surely should have been played by someone who looks less precisely like the sort of character he’s supposed to be! (In fact, why not have him played by Wallace Shawn, in a tribute to Shawn’s appearance in Manhattan?) Meanwhile, Maury Chaykin from Harry & Son and Wild Thing appears as the greasiest pool player ever! Ha ha!
Elizabeth McGovern is an actress who has had an interesting career, popping up in movies like Once Upon A Time in America, Ragtime and She’s Having A Baby; she's the initial victim of the raging redhead, with whom Terry teams up for a particularly dumb denouement! It’s all supposed to be oh-so-Hitchcockian, but, apart from a moment here or there, nothing approaches the grandmaster’s level! Anyway, Hitchcock’s Wrong Men are victims of circumstance, not of their own base stupidity!
It’s easy to see why Brian DePalma, whom I’m certain was approached, turned this one down, though it would have been interesting to see what he might have done with it! Ha ha, the scene at the ballet, which is meant to be a major suspense setpiece, but falls confoundingly flat, might have had some oomph! He’d probably have kept the characters pretty dumb though – ha ha, just look at Body Double!
Terry’s every action is painfully idiotic: until he manages to do one thing at the end that provides the killer with a temporary inconvenience! Thus the picture comes to an end, and not a moment too soon! It’s no wonder that in the years since, any memory of this movie has been buried beneath the reputations of only marginally more successful 80s suspensers like Black Widow, Jagged Edge, Someone To Watch Over Me and the like! I give The Bedroom Window one snapped-off toothpick!

Sunday 16 August 2015

Burl reviews Randy Rides Alone! (1934)

Ha ha and horseshoes, it’s Burl, here to review another elderly oater! This one stars none other than the Duke himself, but a young Duke, early in his ten-gallon career! It’s called Randy Rides Alone, and yes, the Duke essays the role of Randy, and yes, he frequently rides alone!
This picture has an unexpectedly crackerjack opener, ha ha! Randy is just arriving at a roadside rest stop called the Half-Way House, and he comes in the front door to find the barman and all the patrons completely massacred stone dead! A player piano is tinkling out a tune to the corpses, and mysterious eyes are watching through the cut-out eyes of a portrait! Whoa, spooky!
Randy finds a note on the wall from the culprit, while meanwhile, outside, the sheriff pulls up with his pal Matt the Mute and a full posse! Matt mutely hands the sheriff a note telling him and everybody else to be quiet too! Ha ha, so far not a word has been spoken in the picture, and it looks as though everyone will be communicating by notes the whole way through! Sadly this is not to be, however! That old familiar drawl starts up pretty quick, with the Duke protesting his innocence when he’s accused of perpetrating the massacre! Aii yai yai!
Well, from here things mosey along the expected trail, ha ha! There’s a gang, and a secret bad guy played by Gabby Hayes! It’s a duel identity thing, you see, and somehow the way Gabby disguises himself is to become mute, yet to leave notes under his real name, Marvin, in the same exact writing he uses in his guise as Matt the Mute to shove notes in people’s faces all day! I thought that was going to be the big clue, but nope! No one ever mentions the manifestly identical script!
Alberta Vaughan, whom you all probably know from Meet the Quince, is the new owner of the Half-Way House, which, along with the land upon which it sits, is the object of Gabby’s plunder! There’s also a bag of money, just so everybody knows how high the stakes are! And, ha ha, there’s a badguy hideout to rival the one in Ridin’ on a Rainbow!
As in Susanna Pass, explosives have been strewn all about, but an explosion only happens in a fairly hilarious scene at the end, in which the Duke shows how ruthless he can be! He just straight-up lures Gabby into a trap and then blows him up! Or at least arranges for him to be blown up! Ha ha, law enforcement was a slippery concept back then, as it still so often is today!
Anyway, it all goes by in about fifty-three minutes, so why not take a gander at this little oater? The opening is great, though I’d love to see what Edgar Ulmer or Fritz Lang would have done with it; and the Duke is, well, the Duke; the hideout is superb; and it’s nice to see Gabby Hayes in a role where he isn’t just hamboning around advising people to put a poltice on that! Although, ha ha, I like those roles too! Otherwise Randy Rides Alone is pretty standard el-cheapo fare, and I give it one and a half fake moustaches!

Tuesday 11 August 2015

Burl reviews Tombs of the Blind Dead! (1971)

Hola friends, it’s Burl here with a taste of Iberian horror for you! Yes, I’m here to review the very first installment in the four-film Blind Dead series, Tombs of the Blind Dead! I’d never seen any of these pictures and had always been curious about them; now that I have lived to tell the tale, I can pass on my findings to you!
I knew going in that these were essentially zombie pictures, with the twist being that the zombies are blind! Ha ha, they also ride horses, which I think is a pretty marvelous variation on the theme! They seem to have some kind of an agenda over and above that of the usual zombie, but it remains obscure! Finally, like most zombies these fellows enjoy putting a biting on their victims, but ingestion doesn’t seem to be a part of the program! In other words, these guys don’t bite to eat, they bite for the sheer pleasure of biting! Ha ha!
Well I’ll tell you! I watched the full-length Spanish version of the movie, and I can tell you that there’s a good deal of telenovela about it! It starts with two old school chums, Betty and Virginia, reuniting by chance at a fabulous seaside swimming bath in Lisbon! It seems they used to be very very close with one another, but now Virginia has a muttonchop boyfriend named Roger; or at least he appears to be her boyfriend, though there is much talk about them being “just friends!”
Anyway, all of them end up on the world’s slowest-moving train, and Virginia ends up jumping off and walking to an abandoned medieval town with a lot of its real estate occupied by graveyards! Ha ha! Virginia beds down for the night, but bearded, skeletal monk zombies pop up from their tombs, chase poor Virginia around and put a dreadful biting on her!
She herself is briefly zombified, until a conflagration in a mannequin factory that is; and then the rest of the characters, along with a couple of new ones, end up back in the town; zombie monks; bitings and choppings; Betty is chased back to that slowbones little train, and after an eternity of trying to get her onto the darn choo choo, the old beardos climb on too and put pokings and bitings on everyone! Ha ha, and there’s a definite feeling of apocalypto at the end, as so often in European zombie movies!
The soap opera drags it down a bit, but the zombies are great, and actually pretty scary! They ride horses who can only run in slow motion, and that works pretty well too, even if it looks a bit silly when Betty’s riding one, as she briefly does! It gets a bit rapey, unfortunately, so that interrupted my enjoyment! But there was enjoyment, plenty of it, right from the great swimming pool seen at the beginning! I give Tombs of the Blind Dead two and a half flaming backsides!

Monday 10 August 2015

Burl reviews The Human Mule! (2002)

Doodle-doodle-doo, it’s Burl, here to review a real peculiario of an obscurity! It’s called The Human Mule, and appears to have been made in Victoria, B.C., in about 2002! And it’s an odd one, ha ha! But embrace it, for this is probably your only chance to meet… The Human Mule!
The first thing you notice, after a period of silence in which you assume your TV is mistakenly on mute, is that it appears to have been shot on film, which is a delightful surprise indeed! Next thing, a guy in a scoop-neck tank top, with the heavily accented voice you would expect and hope him to have, explains a bunch of crazy nonsense about mind control and an absence of time! “I wish I could tell you exactly since when I’m in here, but there is no time in my room, in my home, the Human Mule home, I think?” says The Human Mule, and this is followed by a sprightly “doodle-doodle-doodle-doo!” on the soundtrack! Ha ha!
After the picture disappointingly turns to very consumer-grade colour video, The Human Mule give us a little vignette of his brain-damaged parents, who proceed to lavish insult after insult onto the city of Moncton, then tells a female passerby “Ha ha, your shoe-string is open!” But none of this helps with what seems to be the overarching problem: The Human Mule's absolute bewilderment at his situation and the behaviour of those around him!
Why, The Human Mule can hardly believe the things he’s seeing! “You… are writing one of your poems in the sand by low-tide?” the boggled Mule demands of one slickered seaside scribe! But after this it gets weirder still, when we return back to the monochrome super-8 and 16mm film and The Human Mule has invited in a ladyfriend with an absolutely bizarre and unplaceable accent! A news reporter gives us the lowdown on the stories of the day! It seems The Human Mule’s memories are being taken away and replaced with someone else’s! He’s upset about this, no question, but ha ha, what can he do?
There’s home movie footage; ramblings from conspiracy types; lots of footage taken from the front of a moving bus; mimed fight scenes which end off screen, after which The Human Mule reappears, rubbing his behind! At a certain point, The Human Mule bellows “What is going on here?!?,” a sentiment shared by the viewer! By the time the picture starts repeating itself a bit, it seems to be taking a very long 61 minutes indeed! But it comes to what I gather is a twist ending shortly thereafter! Ha ha!
It’s initially disappointing to discover The Human Mule himself isn’t actually a mule-lipped man, but this dismay is swiftly replaced by the sort of glee one experiences on finding something weird that surely not many others have seen! The glee levels wax and wane as the picture goes on of course, but if you can stand the many silent bits, the experimental music score, the filler scenes of rambling people and the general amateur experimental film vibe, and if you find The Human Mule himself as charming as I did, you might really enjoy this picture!
I'll happily admit that I enjoyed it! It's a direct descendent of movies like Stereo, and although not nearly as well done, not without a compelling charm all its own! I give The Human Mule two brown discolourations!

Sunday 9 August 2015

Burl reviews High Road to China! (1983)

Yippee-yippee-hey, it’s Burl! I've got a forgotten picture of the 80s again today, ha ha! Yes, High Road to China is surely to biscuits one of those movies that only got made because of Raiders of the Lost Ark! For that reason, it often gets unfairly maligned as a Raiders rip-off, but it’s not! Ha ha, it’s pretty clearly an African Queen rip-off!
Any other maligning the picture receives is just and proper! This was, I believe, Tom Selleck’s first dip into feature film stardom, before Lassiter even, and the fact that old Tom had famously been offered the Indiana Jones role only increases the assumption that his character in this movie, O’Malley by name, is going to be searching for some kind of lost city or treasure! Well I suppose it is a form of treasure he’s after, but something more valuable than any treasure could be! For, ha ha, their treasure is BRIMLEY!
Yes, it’s all about a spoiled heiress about to lose her fortune to Robert Morley (from The African Queen, natch!), and so to find her father, last heard of in Afghanistan, she has to hire dipsomaniacal airman O’Malley and his jovial mechanic Struts, played by Jack Weston of course, because who else could do it? Not Martin Balsam! Anyway, ha ha, relations between O’Malley and the heiress are strained for a good part of the picture, though even when attracti*n strikes, and however drunk he is, O’Malley always remains un vrai gentilhomme!
The heiress is a good pilot herself, and her dad is of course Wilford “The Thing” Brimley! Ha ha, Brimley here is as jovial as I’ve ever seen him in a movie! This must be his most jovial role ever, I don’t care if he’s played Santa! Ha ha! Wilford has somehow strode into a Chinese village and become its leader, which is something they need since a Gengis Khan type is constantly attacking the village! Wilford’s strategy, which provides the picture’s climax, involves detonating incredible amounts of explosive beneath the feet of the siege forces! Everyone gets blown up and Wilford dances a merry hornpipe! Ha ha!
Tom Selleck really had his niche carved out in the 80s: Cary Grant reborn! (Ha ha, at least until Runaway!) His particular shtick, as near as I can pinpoint it, is to be unexpectedly whiny for a big handsome moustache man! But he has a standout scene in this picture, which is, I suppose, his attempt at the Indianapolis speech from Jaws! He segues from regaling a gang of airmen with his tales of WWI glory in the skies to a sorrowful reminiscence about the young, frightened near-children he was shooting down by the war’s end! Pretty somber stuff, and surprisingly well performed by the fur-lipped lug! Ha ha!
But the action is pretty banal, and there’s no more chemistry between Selleck and Bess “11th Victim” Armstrong than there was between the blockheads of Summer Catch! The direction from Brian G. Hutton, who also made The First Deadly Sin and was an actor in Carnival Rock, is merely functional! Really, there’s nothing much memorable about this picture, though I do admit that the planes are very nice! Some pretty daring stunt work too! However, the picture never rollicks as much as it would like to, seriously lacks in the pep department, and, as much flapper dancing as Bess Armstrong does, it never seems much like we’re actually in the 1920s! On the other hand, Brimley! Ha ha, I guess I’ll give High Road to China one and a half drop-bombs!

Friday 7 August 2015

Burl reviews The African Queen! (1951)

Good day, Miss! It’s Burl here to review one of those movies that are not great classics, not unimpeachable favourites, but simply solid entertainments! The movie I’m talking about is The African Queen, the fine adventure-romance made in Africa by Mr. John "Under the Volcano" Huston! Ha ha!
We all know the story! It’s the dawn of WWI and there’s a brother-sister team of missionaries doing their thing in German East Africa! Their village is serviced by expat Canadian river rat Charlie Allnut and his creaky old launch the African Queen, who deliver supplies, mail, news of current events, and so on! But one day the Germans arrive, and, with their usual subtle grace, burn the village to the ground, kidnap every man of soldiering age and effectively kill the brother-reverend! That leaves the sister, Rose, and grizzled old Allnut chugging down the river on the boat, on a mission (a reluctant one on Charlie’s part) to reach a lake and blow up the German vessel which patrols it! Ha ha!
Of far more importance than this contrived story is Huston’s lush location shooting (photographed brilliantly by the great Jack Cardiff and, backing him up, Teds Scaife and Moore) and of course the two principal actors, Humphrey Bogart as Allnut and Katherine Hepburn as Rose! Both of them are good, if occasionally a little bit hambone, but Bogie in particular surprises with his boozy deference! Ha ha, his hangdog expressions, particularly the one he throws when Rose kicks him out of the minimal shelter the Queen offers during a rainstorm, are priceless and affecting!
Hepburn, meanwhile, is uptight and rather more patrician than one might expect of a dedicated missionary of presumably modest birth, but she’s still her usual live-wire self! I myself have never quite bought the romance in this picture, other than academically; Bogart and Hepburn are perhaps too iconic for me to see them as just two slobs in love! Ha ha! Of course this is largely a two-hander, relying heavily on the aforementioned icons, but there are other people in the picture too, including Robert Morley as the brother – he’s well-known of course from his role as the bad guy in the African Queen rip-off High Road to China – and the great, only recently late Theodore "I Bury the Living" Bikel in the role of the German first officer! And Walter Gotell, so well known from Bond pictures like Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only and The Living Daylights, is in there too!
It’s a crackerjack entertainment, and if it doesn’t achieve brilliance, that’s because brilliance was never really on the menu! It’s as solid as a house and about as comfortable! Ha ha, I give The African Queen three rumbles of the tummy!

Thursday 6 August 2015

Burl reviews Summer Catch! (2001)

With a crack of the old hickory it’s Burl, here to review a baseball picture! Now, ol’ Burl enjoys baseball, playing it and spectating it both! I’ve never had a particular love of baseball movies though, but I suspect that’s because I haven’t seen very many of the good ones! The Natural, Eight Men Out and even Bull Durham are all on deck, but I’ve yet to watch any of them! (Ha ha, I have seen Fear Strikes Out, though, and of course The Bad News Bears, which is the best of them I think!)
Today’s baseball picture, Summer Catch, is not one of the good ones, I’m sorry to say! It’s a simple baseball romance, featuring a working-class kid who gets his big chance to play for real, his af*air with a rich girl, the girl’s disapproving dad, the goofy guys who make up the rest of the team, the local friends, the blue-collar dad and of course the grumpy coach! It’s all there, present and accounted for, and if you’ve ever seen not just a sports movie, not just a romance, but any movie of any description, you’ll have seen all this before! Ha ha!
You might be wondering why ol’ Burl even took this one off the shelf, much less took the time to watch it! I’m wondering the same, frankly, but one critical factor was that the movie is set on Cape Cod, a fishy-smelling place I’m fond of! I’ve always loved seeing it portrayed on film, which is probably mostly thanks to Jaws and also maybe a bit to Tough Guys Don’t Dance! Anyway, I was hoping for some Cape Cod atmosphere here, some scrubby dunes, half-buried sand fences, clapboard Colonial architecture and so forth! But no, I didn’t get it!
I also enjoy the summerlong microgenre! This refers to a movie which takes place over the course of a whole summer: personal growth, lessons learned, so forth! Summer of ’42 is a summerlong picture; so are Summer Rental, Summer School, One Crazy Summer and Dirty Dancing! Ha ha, and there are plenty more of them too! I got a bit of satisfaction in that department with this movie, so huzzah!
The picture tries to be a comedy, and it has a couple of laughs, but none of them very fulsome! Freddie Prinze Jr. and Matthew “The Descendants” Lillard, who would reteam later for those Scooby-Doo pictures (Fred and Shaggy, respectively) do their best, but only Lilliard has the energy required! Jessica Biel plays the ladyfriend, and I’m afraid I can’t go to bat for her talents, ha ha! There’s a rather stunning lack of chemistry between these two lovers, in fact, and their dumbbell dialogue improves things not a whit!
On the more positive side, there are a few welcome faces in the supporting cast, though they’re largely wasted! Brian “Best Seller” Dennehy plays the grumping, harrumphing coach; Willard himself, Bruce “Lies” Davison, is the rich dad; and Fred Ward, so marvelous in UFOria, is the not-so-rich dad! There are also late-film cameos from Beverly “Vacation” D’Angelo and John C. McGinley, as well as appearances from the likes of Hank Aaron, Ken Griffey Jr. and the Voice of the Red Sox himself, Curt Gowdy! Ha ha!
But none of this can save the movie from being a stinkpile, I’m very sorry to say! There’s a reasonable authenticity to the baseball scenes, but not much bullpen atmosphere beyond that; there’s no spark to the romance, no bite to the drama, no pep to the comedy (fat girl jokes make up its dispiriting centerpiece) and no sense that anyone involved in the picture really believed it was a story that needed to be told (again)! On top of all that it was a disappointment in the Cape Cod department! I give Summer Catch one half of a dumb, pointless audio flashback!