FEVER PITCH

2 Stars
Year Released: 2005
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 101 minutes
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Unless you live in a cave, you know the story by now: the Boston Red Sox, down 3 games to none to the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series, did what no other baseball team had done in the playoffs before and came back to win the series. They then went on to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals and win their first World Series championship in 86 years.

“Fever Pitch,” which puts an American spin on Nick Hornby’s soccer memoir, uses this remarkable season as the backdrop for the romance between businesswoman Lindsey (Drew Barrymore) and 9th grade schoolteacher Ben (Jimmy Fallon). The two meet during the winter and – in spite of Lindsey coming down with food poisoning before their first date – hit it off instantly. As spring approaches, Lindsey begins to entertain thoughts of taking things to the next level, in spite of her friends advising her that a guy who’s still single in his 30s must have something wrong with him.

As it turns out, Ben is a Boston Red Sox fan in the original sense of the word, i.e. a “fanatic.” He has season tickets, bequeathed him by his uncle, a few rows back from the dugout, and does naught else during the season but live and breathe Red Sox baseball. Lindsey, who is hot on the upwardly mobile career path, sees the silver lining of dating a man who has to attend/watch every game. She can focus on her work, and he can go enjoy his silly pastime. Naturally, Ben’s obsession goes well beyond Lindsey’s assumptions, and tensions inevitably arise as he’s forced to choose between the game he’s loved for his entire life and the woman he maybe loves now.

Anyone familiar with the conventions of the rom-com genre knows how all this is going to turn out. Of course they have to suffer through a fight that brings their relationship to the edge of dissolution, and of course there has to be a dramatic reconciliation, preferably in front of millions of people. The Farrellys, whose influence here is almost nonexistent save for a few of their usual bit players, have made what is essentially a straight-up romantic comedy with a few odd moments thrown in here and there. Unfortunately, those moments are what work best, and “Fever Pitch” desperately needs more of them, because what’s left over makes it indistinguishable from any of a dozen other similar films that will come out this year.

Barrymore is coming into her own as an adult actor, but – “Charlie’s Angels” aside (yes, please) – she’s in danger of following the Meg Ryan career path. And by that, I don’t mean she’ll end up leaving her husband for Russell Crowe, but that she’s going to become so associated with this kind of film that no one will believe her in anything else. Worse, no one will pay to see her in anything else.

Still, she’s got better prospects than Fallon, who mumbles his way through his lines and never seems at ease onscreen. After the failure of “Taxi,” “Fever Pitch” needs to make some serious bank or Fallon’s going to be consigned to movies on the USA Network and a 90 second segment on VH1’s “I Love the 2000s.”

Honestly, this movie would’ve worked a lot better had the Red Sox not won the World Series. I don’t say this as a Cardinals fan (which I am) or a Red Sox hater (which I am not), but as someone who thinks one of the fundamental assumptions of the film – that there are things in life more important than baseball – is damaged by having Ben’s suffering pay off after all these years. Too bad for the Farrellys, who were forced to rewrite the ending and reshoot certain scenes in order to capture the event. I know it was almost too good to be true that Boston won it all the same year the movie was made, but put some more effort into it, guys. The Sox win the championship in St. Louis and the only Boston fans celebrating on the field at Busch Stadium are Ben and Lindsey? Pull the other one. The whole thing is dealt with so perfunctorily it might as well have been ignored altogether.

And it just seems so…Hollywood.

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Posted on April 11, 2005 in Reviews by
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