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7 reviews, 32 user ratings

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For Love of the Game
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Raimi strikes out."
3 stars

If you haven't had your fill of movies in which everything hinges on the Big Game, 'For Love of the Game' might do it for you.

It's presumably meant as the concluding film in Kevin Costner's baseball trilogy; as such, it's not terrible, but it lacks the wit of Bull Durham and the resonance of Field of Dreams. This movie, based on a short novel by the late Michael Shaara (The Killer Angels), is about nothing less -- or more -- than baseball as a metaphor for life: Even when it hurts, you gotta stay in there pitching. We grasp that after five minutes, but the movie goes on for another two hours and fifteen minutes.

Not that there aren't some stray good moments along the way. Costner is Billy Chapel, a forty-year-old pitcher for the Detroit Tigers. Billy is apparently the star of the team; he's the only player anyone talks about, and his teammates -- especially his devoted catcher Gus (John C. Reilly) -- seem in awe of him. He's a living legend, and Costner plays him with becoming modesty. His scenes with Kelly Preston, as a magazine writer he falls for, and with the gifted Jena Malone as a teenage girl he sort of takes under his wing, are casual and intimate. This is one of his regular-guy performances, just the way his fans seem to like him, and if he doesn't do anything fresh, he at least does familiar things with finesse.

For Love of the Game has a ruminative flashback structure: The conceit is that, as Billy plays what may be his final game, he thinks back on his life -- mostly the recent past having to do with the Preston character, Jane Aubrey. We keep flipping back and forth, a technique that only works when the past illuminates or comments on the present. Here, it just seems like a nostalgia trip. We learn nothing much about Billy -- he is defined entirely by his passion for the game and his greatness as a pitcher. Jane's character is similarly sketchy; she exists to throw Billy a curveball every now and then (that may or may not be a pun; she may actually be intended as a symbolic pitcher throwing relationship fastballs Billy can't hit).

When we're not watching the flashbacks -- which lose whatever warmth and momentum they've been allowed to build whenever we're taken out of them again -- we're watching the game, or, more precisely, The Game. Every pitch, hit, bunt, foul, strike, and slide into first base has the weight of Hercules' twelve labors. Billy is driving himself to pitch the perfect game -- i.e., no hitters taking a base -- and he's working against physical and spiritual pain: His shoulder is killing him, Jane has just dumped him, and he might get traded to the Giants. Given all this, you can pretty much predict how Billy's trial on the mound will end, and you'll be right.

For Love of the Game is painless, but it's also pompous and pious about baseball in a way that doesn't mean much to a non-fan like me. Also, I see that I've gotten almost to the end of the review without mentioning the director, Sam Raimi. That's because anyone could have directed it. Which is a shame, because Raimi was once a terrific screwball horror-comedy director (the Evil Dead movies, Darkman) who has succumbed to a yearning for mainstream respect. First he gave us A Simple Plan, which I found bland and overrated; now he gives us a sanctimonious baseball fable. If he keeps this up, he'll be ready to shoot a Nora Ephron script. Sam Raimi may have wanted to break into the big leagues, but I liked him better when he was in a league of his own. He doesn't use the camera as a fastball any more -- he doesn't throw us any curves. Maybe he's forgotten how; maybe he no longer wants to.

Whatever the reason, even Raimi fans who enjoyed 'A Simple Plan' may look at 'For Love of the Game' and sadly conclude that he's lost his arm. Let's hope it's only a temporary Hollywood sprain.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=1719&reviewer=416
originally posted: 01/13/07 00:45:38
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User Comments

8/04/11 K D A film critic who knows nothing about Baseball. Right. Probably a soccer fan. 5 stars
2/11/09 Jheri Jones Wonderful film no matter what the critics say. 5 stars
5/11/07 Forrest D I like it a lot more than I expected to, esp. Jane's character, but she is underwritten. 5 stars
2/22/05 Jeff Anderson Criminally underrated baseball film & a damn great one for both Raimi & Costner, I MEAN IT! 5 stars
11/01/04 Meirav Nora-Cohen I love this film. Costner is great as always and Preston is a hugh suprise - great actress! 4 stars
6/28/04 Cameron Cubbison Costner delivers a heartfelt, amiable performance, and anchors this Capraesque tale. 5 stars
12/10/03 john a great sports film and a good romance 5 stars
6/09/03 Jack Bourbon I enjoyed this movie. Not the slappable dud I expected. 4 stars
1/19/03 Jack Sommersby Underrated love story is affecting and beautifully acted. 4 stars
3/16/02 FlaFan Costner and the baseball scenes are great. Kelly Preston and certain scenes are not. 4 stars
2/25/02 Phil M. Afficianado So what's wrong with a male soap opera, baseball, and Costner? Nothing. 5 stars
8/06/01 E-Funk Looks like a Foldger's coffee comercial...Raimi's only suck-fest (I blame Costner) 2 stars
5/28/01 cinkcool Worth a look. 4 stars
2/04/01 Wafer I think this movie only could have been pulled off by Raimi 4 stars
12/16/00 Jed Good movie it sure was. Costner has done worse than this people. 4 stars
7/12/00 Terrie Smith Not a baf film; not as good as Costner's previous "baseball" movies. 3 stars
5/24/00 Jed Costner's 2nd best film. A bit flawed but quite underrated. 4 stars
4/27/00 MR joel harwood ZzZzZ slightly drawn out slow in parts good in others, Its been done 4 stars
1/21/00 Josh Same old same old love story but very enjoyable as always by Raimi 4 stars
12/18/99 Herman What a relief after his last few bombs 4 stars
10/18/99 Cassandra I Love it!!! Definately a girls movie 4 stars
10/16/99 DarkHorse At least watch the damn thing before you bitchslap it, moron... It did suck however... 2 stars
10/03/99 Movie Lover Great movie - I loved it! 5 stars
9/30/99 spork-girl how do i like to be kissed? not by kevin costner 1 stars
9/27/99 Ron Jeremy Sucked all ass is definitly a good way to sum it up - more crap from costner 1 stars
9/26/99 The Lynchpyn works 'cause it's got the romance for chicks & the game for the guys 3 stars
9/26/99 Chickflick A great date movie!!! 4 stars
9/25/99 Bret What the hell was the point of the movie!!!!!! 2 stars
9/24/99 Alyssa Where was Bruce Campbell's cameo? He was needed to kick Costner's whiney little ass. 2 stars
9/18/99 Frank pretty good..more of a chick flick 3 stars
9/18/99 Mr Showbiz Kev's definitely on his B-game in this overblown melodrama. 3 stars
9/13/99 Jason Levine Terrific (but, of course, I'm a pushover for sappy romances, and when you add baseball...) 5 stars
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