Catch as catch can, without release 

Can a movie read minds in the audience? "Catch and Release" does.

The last line — "What took you so long?" — echoed the question preying on my mind for most of its 124 minutes before that perspicacious punch line.

Although not a complete failure, "Catch and Release" manages to turn a promising premise into an inchoate, meandering marathon ostinato of "what’s taking you so long?!"

Not just an average midstory slowdown, this is a swan dive into permanent tedium, notwithstanding determined efforts by the marvelous Jennifer Garner and the boldly and corpulently funny Kevin Smith, devilish director of "Clerks," "Chasing Amy" and "Dogma."

"Erin Brockovich" writer Susannah Grant is the writer-director of "Catch and Release," which opens with an unflattering closeup of Garner at the funeral of her fiancé — eyes and nose red from crying, the "Alias" star still manages to look attractive. The plot dangles on said fiancé’s secret life, but little is revealed or is of much interest.

And yet, girl-next-door-glamorous Garner, the constantly eating and wisecracking Smith ("Silent Bob speaks!"), a fine turn by Juliette Lewis, as an aspiring massage therapist from hell, and John Lindley’s gorgeous cinematography in and around Boulder, Colo., provide some spark to the film, even while the story stalls and stalls.

"Catch and Release" also offers the still-young year’s worst performance: Timothy Olyphant’s lady killer, a major — albeit shyly classy — stud character is made by the director to show a fixed, irritating smile to express the depth of his cardboard character. It’s embarrassing, especially when guess who falls for this illegitimate son of Alfred E. Neuman ... oh, never mind. Take heart: You may feel that it takes forever, but the movie will eventually end.

Catch and Release *½

Starring Jennifer Garner, Timothy Olyphant, Sam Jaeger, Juliette Lewis, Kevin Smith

Written and directed by Susannah Grant

Rated PG-13

Running time 2 hours, 4 minutes

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Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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