Fever Pitch (2005) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for some language, sexual humor and sensuality
Running Time: 101 min.
Cast: Jimmy Fallon, Drew Barrymore, KaDee Strickland, Ione Skye, Miranda Black, Isabella Fink, Zen Gesner, Evan Helmuth, Jack Kehler, Armando Riesco, Michael Rubenfeld, Scott Severance, James Sikking, Johnny Sneed, Marissa Jaret Winokur, JoBeth Williams, Darren Frost, Jason Varitek (cameo), Johnny Damon (cameo), Trot Nixon (cameo), Jim Rice (cameo), Dennis Eckersley (cameo), Peter Gammons (cameo), Tim McCarver (cameo), Harold Reynolds (cameo)
Director: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly
Screenplay: Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel
I suppose a big part of why I liked Fever Pitch comes from my love of baseball, so it's almost unfair for those who don't share the same passion to think it anything special. For those who aren't like me, I've provided the following guidelines to stack against my three stars to help see whether or not this movie is for you:
Subtract a half star if you don't consider yourself a baseball fan.
Subtract a full star if you don't even consider yourself a sports fan.
Add one star if you are a Red Sox fan.
Subtract one star if you are a Yankees fan.
Add a star if you are a romantic comedy fanatic, and subtract one if you hate them.
Subtract a star if you think the Farrelly Brothers can't make a funny movie unless it's rated R.
Add a half star if you are a fan of Drew Barrymore.
Subtract a star if you're going to see this because you think Adam Sandler is in it.
Give the movie a full five stars if you are a Jimmy Fallon nut, because you obviously are easily amused.
Talk about loosely basing a movie on a novel -- "Fever Pitch", the book by Nick Hornby, isn't even about baseball. It's about growing up as a soccer fanatic (aka football to almost everyone outside of the US and Canada), and was released back as a movie in 1997, starring Colin Firth. Obviously, loving a soccer team at the expense of one's personal relationships would seem far too unbelievable for most American audiences, so the game has been changed to baseball, where the Boston Red Sox happen to have some of the most rabid fans in all of sports.
Jimmy Fallon (Taxi, "Saturday Night Live") stars as Ben, a Boston school teacher who has been an avid Red Sox fan since his uncle introduced him to it at the age of seven. Now that he's 30, he loves it more than ever, sitting in his now-deceased uncle's seats, never missing an inning of any home game. When he takes his class on a field trip through a business, he meets Lindsey (Drew Barrymore, 50 First Dates), and asks her out. She is reluctant at first, but soon changes her tune, and to her surprise, she actually finds he is funny, charming and quite the catch. That is, until the baseball season starts, and Ben shows that he has a love even greater than her -- an all-encompassing adoration for all things Boston Red Sox. Almost every one of Ben's relationships has ended due to the fact that his girlfriend's can't accept his passion, and Lindsey is determined not to be one of those women who needs constant attention. However, the more serious the relationship gets, the more absurd she finds his obsession, to the point where it seems that she might always be #2 in his life. Will she accept this, or does Ben actually have to choose between two loves to see which is more important?
Quite clearly, SNL alum Jimmy Fallon is being plugged into a role that normally would have been reserved for two-time star of a Drew Barrymore romantic comedy, Adam Sandler. While Sandler probably would have knocked the raving man-boy fanboy out of the park, Fallon doesn't really have an engaging enough personality of his own to really take hold of his role. However, considering how awful he was in Taxi, I suppose the fact that his performance is mostly adequate surprised me enough to give him some credit for not blowing a big opportunity. He even grew on me a little, although I still think he is an comedic actor of very marginal appeal outside of SNL.
This is by far the tamest movie the Farrelly Brothers (Stuck on You, Shallow Hal) have ever done, and outside of some occasionally broad physical jokes, I probably would have never guessed they directed it had I not seen their names on the opening credits. The direction is fine, although I think whatever fans they once had are probably growing restless at how dilute their normally envelope-pushing comedy has become. Perhaps they are maturing, perhaps they have lost their edge -- regardless, they got the job done here.
Another well-known comedy duo wrote the screenplay in Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel (Robots, Edtv), and for the most part, the characters are likeable enough to keep us interested. They particularly did a decent job considering the substantial rewrites that had to be performed since the Red Sox won the World Series (the original script had them losing again), and their knowledge of Red Sox history will certainly hit home with fans of the Red Sox.
Fever Pitch isn't hilarious, but it is light and amusing enough to score points for those into formulaic romantic comedies, provided that is what you're looking for going in. While the film does admit that the love of another human being should supersede the love of a game, the irony is that those who love the game will love Fever Pitch more than those who love romantic comedies. Contrived but cute, for those who like just that sort of thing.
©2005 Vince Leo