Fever Pitch (2005)

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 09/13/05 15:09:45

"It's cute, it's sweet, it's entirely disposable."
3 stars (Just Average)

It’s only been a few hours since I watched “Fever Pitch,” yet it’s already started to slip from memory.

Yeah, it’s one of those movies, the kind that are enjoyable enough while you’re sitting through it but fade away all too quickly. I’m recommending it on the basis that it is unquestionably enjoyable; it does what it sets out to do, which is earn a few laughs and a few smiles. But it’s all too run-of-the-mill, all too disposable, all too forgettable.

Which is a surprise, considering that it comes to us from the Farrelly brothers, the filmmakers behind such unquestionably unforgettable comedies as “There’s Something About Mary” and “Stuck On You.” Even their lesser works manage to keep folks talking long after the closing credits.

It’s also a surprise considering that the film is based on a book by Nick Hornby, whose “High Fidelity” became something of a modern classic. His “Fever Pitch” has been made into a movie once before, a British production starring Colin Firth; that film was so endlessly wonderful that I couldn’t stop telling my friends about it when I first saw it. Looking at this American version, I must ask: How could something with source material this solid wind up so… blah?

Ah, but then we look at the credits, and notice that it was not the Farrellys who wrote the screenplay, as they used to do for their films. Scripting duties here went to none other than Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, the writing team who have become synonymous with forgettable Hollywood fluff. Sometimes they churn out a keeper, sometimes they churn out a dud, most of the time they churn out something right in the middle. Dependable, forgettable. Describes “Fever Pitch” to a T.

Ganz and Mandel have taken Hornby’s tribute to the British football fanatic and translated it as an ode to the Red Sox fan. Very little remains of the original material, but in its own way, that’s alright, as this new version does fine for itself. The script ekes many a good laugh at the pain of Bostonian grief - one scene alone is devoted entirely to examples of the Curse of the Bambino, as discussed by fans in Fenway Park (the name “Buckner” gets mumbled as quickly as possible, to minimize the pain).

Jimmy Fallon stars as Ben, introduced to the Sox as a young boy by his uncle, who then left him his season tickets when he dies. The Sox have given Ben a whole other family; there’s a sweetness present when we meet the other ticket holders who have come to know each other through years of home games. (Season tickets are so important, we learn, that one couple has been divorced twenty years yet still share their seats.)

But it’s also a full-blown obsession, a fact which threatens to interfere with his new relationship with Lindsey (Drew Barrymore). And there’s your hook for the story: will Ben’s love for the Sox kill his chances with Lindsey?

It is, for the most part, typical romantic comedy fare. Mercifully, the script skips right past any will-they-or-won’t-they? set-up and drops up right into the relationship. Still, there are conflicts, none of which offer surprises. Lindsey gets tired of Ben’s baseball fixation; Ben doesn’t realize he’s losing the woman of his dreams; the two fall apart, only to realize what they might lose; et cetera.

The film goes through all of this by rote, so we’re lucky that Fallon and Barrymore, both working better than either has in years, pile on the charm and create such likable characters that we can’t help but want to follow them through their obligatory storyline.

It’s no secret that the Red Sox managed to break one of the unluckiest streaks in sports history and finally win the World Series in 2004. The film is even smart enough to open with this very fact. Oddly enough, the movie was being made during the 2004 season, but was written to end with another typical Red Sox disappointment. When the team made its way to the World Series, the filmmakers quickly rallied to get their stars involved as much as possible, going so far as to getting permission to allow them on the field for the victory celebration following the final game. Afterwards, the Farrellys took over script duties, frantically and massively rewriting the finale to include this unexpected outcome.

This, sadly, is a story that’s far more interesting and memorable than the film itself. And yet it’s a nice watch, a movie with the makings of a relaxing evening. Relax, enjoy the show, then don’t fret as the whole experience washes away.

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