‘Fever Pitch’ throws it right down the middle for a strike
“Fever Pitch” is a film that must be considered better than the sum of its parts. Indeed, it is designed to be a romantic comedy yet it doesn’t hit a home run in either the love or laughs departments. Set against the backdrop of the Red Sox’ magnificent 2004 championship season it won’t necessarily appease diehard baseball fans.
Speaking of fans, those who have appreciated the directorial work of Bobby and Peter Farelly (“There’s Something About Mary,” “Shallow Hal”) will either applaud their continuing inclination toward sweet sentimentality or see “Fever Pitch” as the duo’s “lights out, game over” career threatening nadir.
But “Fever Pitch” surprises on many accounts. It involves a simple story of Ben (Jimmy Fallon), a rabid Red Sox fan who courageously asks out successful executive Lindsey (Drew Barrymore). The two meet when Ben, a modest, average Joe math teacher brings some advanced students to meet Lindsey who uses her math skills as a top flight marketing professional.
Fallon plays his part just right, never overly nerdy but quaintly likable with an engaging sense of humor. In other words he’s better here than anything he’s ever done on “Saturday Night Live.”
Here’s hoping he gets more opportunities as a suitable replacement for the one-dimensional yet wildly popular Adam Sandler.
Barrymore for her part moves quietly away from the ditzy blonde caricatures of her past to a more mature, self-assured independent woman and she does so smoothly and admirably. While the two don’t make the screen sizzle, they do what’s required here: Give us reason to root for them.
And except for Yankees fans who felt the sting of the Red Sox comeback in the playoffs last year, “Fever Pitch” will resonate with anyone who grew up with fond memories of attending baseball games in their childhood. Through a miraculous bit of good fortune, the Red Sox ended their real life drought of 98 years and won the World Series causing rewrites in the script. Obviously this heightens both the relevancy and immediacy of the film.
Things are moving forward just fine for the couple until the season begins and Ben’s obsession with attending every game puts a crimp in the couple’s relationship. Will he ultimately choose the Red Sox or his blue girl? The delicacy with which the film handles its conflicts is what makes “Fever Pitch” a winner — not because we wonder whether the couple will end up together or not. As in life, it is not who wins or loses but how the game is played. The Farelly brothers might be getting soft in their old age, but they haven’t lost their touch.
Rated PG-13 for sexual situations and profanity.