Fever Pitch Review

by Ryan Ellis (flickershows AT hotmail DOT com)
April 26th, 2005

Fever Pitch
reviewed by Ryan Ellis
April 12, 2005

'Fever Pitch' has lots of baseball in it. That's a great start. It was directed by Peter & Bobby Farrelly, written by Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel (who adapted Nick Hornby's book), and its headliner is the perky & lovable Drew Barrymore. Her on-screen partner in this rom-com pitch 'n' catch is Jimmy Fallon, who's made people grin on "Saturday Night Live". And the final sequence recaps the classic 2004 postseason when the Boston Red Sox finally trumped the New York Yankees and then won their first World Series in 10,000 years. That sounds like the makings of a terrific little film.

Sounds like, yes. Is, no. That's right, I'm being a grump and giving 'Fever Pitch' the raspberry. First of all, it's not very funny, which is a surprise. The Farrellys have 86ed the gross-out gags in their last few projects, but this softer style is not serving them well. In fairness, they're not bad at genuine sincerity (in fact, in 'Shallow Hal' they guided Gwyneth Paltrow through some of the most heartbreaking scenes in any comedy since John Candy's wonderful performance in 'Planes, Trains And Automobiles'), but their strength has been going for huge laughs with broad comedy. 'Fever Pitch' only made me LOL once, although it's got 2 or 3 sideways jokes that I seemed to think were funnier than everyone else in the theatre did (including a reference to Yankees toilet paper).

Other actors pop their heads in along the way, but none of them make much of an impression. I recognized Jo-Beth Williams (playing Barrymore's mom) and Ione Skye (playing Drew's friend). And Boston's cavemanlike centre fielder, Johnny Damon, is a good enough sport to appear in a few scenes. Other than that, this one's all about Lindsey (Barrymore) and Ben (Fallon). He's a teacher and she's an ad exec (or some type of mid-falutin' stress magnet). Since everybody falls for Drew Barrymore and she's contractually obligated to fall for Jimmy Fallon, they hook up and quickly fall in love.

Turns out, this salt-of-the-earth fella wouldn't miss a Red Sox game if Fenway Park fell over while this businesswoman-about-to-land-the-big-account can't relate to his overwhelming passion for a sports team. Cultures clash and they don't seem to know how to bridge the gap. Welcome to a relationship, kids. Hinjinks ensue and, well, it's not a particularly amusing brand of hijinxery. Everybody is nice and generally polite, but the whole piece is really quite tepid.

So if a comedy is not going to be a raucous jokefest, then the story had better sing. Grump time again. I didn't buy Jimmy & Drew as a couple. Worse, their "he loves the Red Sox more than her" and "she's a workaholic" dynamic is a rerun of something we've seen too many times before. I don't blame her for being a bit frustrated that he's obsessed about baseball in Boston. But a message I've never liked in modern films crops up here (just as it did in another of Hornby's books/movies, 'About A Boy')---hedonists must give up their hedonistic passions and become conformists or they'll spend the rest of their lives in lonely misery.

And I resent that. Movies have always been about a character's eventual realization that lifestyle changes must be made before the credits roll, but 'Fever Pitch' is almost fascist about it. The movie insists that until Fallon stops putting the Red Sox above sex and breathing, he's unworthy of love. Drew Barrymore is too nice to give such outright ultimatums, but that's what her message boils down to. This says a lot about me, but on those conditions, I'd take baseball over the babe.

'Fever Pitch' tries to have it both ways with its ridiculous climax where baseball and romance finally come together as one. Whee. All it took was for our little Drew to do something crazy enough to get herself arrested, and somehow stave off the official arrest procedure until, by golly, she said what she had to say. At least the movie was realistic until that point. A romantic comedy can be a pure fantasy, you say, just so long as it's got the required-by-law happy ending? Okay, the movie COULD live without a realistic final scene. What it couldn't live without is what it doesn't have---stars who have chemistry, a story with a hint of originality, and, most of all, laughs.

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