"A retread of High Fidelity, right down to the source material."
Is Nick Hornby a one trick pony? "Nick who?", you say. You know, Nick, the canny British novelist whose most popular book HIGH FIDELITY was made into a damned fine John Cusack vehicle last spring.If you recall that romantic comedy was about a thirty-something wise-ass who couldn’t commit to a serious relationship and likened everything in life to his massive record collection. In the new release FEVER PITCH we’re treated to a lead character who’s a thiry-something wise-ass who can’t commit to a serious relationship and likens everything in life to his passion for ... soccer. Soccer? As in British football. As in Arsenel, the English team he’s idolized since he was a lad.
Originally released in 1997, FEVER PITCH is just now making its way onto the video playing field with a release on VHS and DVD, presumably to capitalize on FIDELITY’s cult hit status. Colin Firth, the best kept secret weapon in all of Brit cinema (ENGLISH PATIENT, VALMONT), plays the ball obsessed Paul. By day he’s a popular English teacher whose sports metaphors his students adore. By all other waking hours he’s Arsenal’s biggest fan.
That is until he meets the new prim and proper fellow professor Sarah (played with zero charm by Ruth Gemmell). And before you can utter "bloody cliché" the two fall for each other and there’s the rub. He can’t give up his passion for the little spotted ball and she can’t stop being a lovely lady of letters.
All this might work if the couple inspired some chemistry but these two generate less heat than the rubbing of two English lit books together. The oh-so similarly structured HIGH FIDELITY worked for me because all of Cusack’s references made for a musical trip down memory lane. In FEVER PITCH the soccer metaphors leave me stone cold.
Like FIDELITY, the lead’s inability to commit really is about "something else," in this case numerous mind-numbing flashbacks reveal soccer made up for a broken marriage and an all too absent dad. But not all of Firth’s considerably laid back charm can make up for first time director David Evan’s mise en blah.Fittingly the DVD extras (letterbox, trailer, subtitles) are as unspectacular as the film. Here’s hoping the big screen version of Hornby’s ABOUT A BOY fares better. -- Johnny Clay