Fever Pitch Movie Review

"Fever Pitch" is a romantic sports comedy thatgets by on the same kind of lovable-loser charm that has kept its maincharacter obsessed with the Boston Red Sox since age 7.

The movie is not especially creative, the performancesare not especially memorable, the script lacks structure (at least untilthe start of the baseball season provides an external one), and the directingis often slapdash. But there's a saving grace in the underlying, never-say-dieendearment to the fantasized (even fetish-ized) relationship between schoolteacherBen (Jimmy Fallon) and his beloved BoSox. This authentic eternal optimismalso gives amusing life to Ben's desperate hope that insane fandom won'tkill a newer relationship -- with the first girl he's ever loved as muchas baseball.

During the winter of 2003, Ben falls for an out-of-his-leaguebusiness consultant named Lindsey (Drew Barrymore), and she falls for him-- after being convinced by her girlfriends to change her habit of doomedflings with aggressive, career-driven yuppies. The offbeat sweetness ofthis opposites-attract couple and their conflict over baseball feel exponentiallymore authentic than the snowballing little lies and contrived misunderstandingsthat drive most romantic comedies.

Ben and Lindsey have real laughs together (not rimshotdialogue designed exclusively for cheap guffaws from the audience) andthey make real compromises, recognizing the vast differences between them.Their problems arise because until summer rolls around she just doesn'tquite grasp how truly commitment he is to the seemingly cursed Sox -- despitehis honest attempts to warn her and despite the fact that his apartmentis decorated exclusively in classic Sox memorabilia, hung on every wallsave the one painted like "The Green Monster" back wall of FenwayPark.

The comedy of "Fever Pitch" comes from how thesetwo struggle to reach an accord during the miracle season in which Bostonwon its first World Series in 86 years, as Ben follows the team from hisseason-ticket choice seats inherited from an equally faithful uncle.

Hit-and-miss screenwriters Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel("Father's Day," "A League of Their Own")do many things right in this lose adaptation of an autobiographical bookabout soccer fandom by Englishman Nick Hornsby ("HighFidelity"). Primarily, they write the charactersas real grown-ups, even making their jobs more than just a cursory partof the story (although Lindsey's job is only vaguely defined). It's surprisingthe script works as well as it does considering a substantial rewrite wasrequired after the Sox unexpectedly broke "the Curse of the Bambino."

Directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly -- who are better atstringing together ribald gags ("Dumb and Dumber," "There'sSomething About Mary") than they are attelling a story -- do many things wrong, including casting "SaturdayNight Live" alum Jimmy Fallon. His attempt to stretch beyond sketch-comedybuffoonery shows more promise here than in last year's disastrous "Taxi,"but this is not a character-driven performance. Too bad the Farrellys couldn'thave swapped the roles of Fallon in "Fever Pitch" and Bostonnative Matt Damon in their last movie, the lowbrow conjoined-twins comedy"Stuck On You."

But two unquestionable successes that boost the movie'sentertainment value are its successful capturing of die-hard Red Sox buffs'hoping-against-hope team spirit and Barrymore's combination of sophisticationand Everygirl likeability. Lindsey's love for Ben, personified in her willingnessto learn her way into this unique brand of baseball fandom, is the unusualemotional touchstone of "Fever Pitch."

Flawed but enjoyable, this love letter to underdog devotionflunks significantly only in its finale, which takes the plot all the waythrough the 2003 playoffs, then stops dead in its tracks to capsulize theWorld Series in a throw-away voice-over, abandoning gift-horse climax foranti-climactic exposition.

Cast & Crew

Starring : , , , , , James B. Sikking, , , Zen Gesner, Darren Frost,


Comments

Fever Pitch Rating

" Weak "

Rating: PG-13, WIDE: Friday, April 8, 2005

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