A few months back, I gave out an incomplete list of the 5 best baseball-related movies that I've seen thus far. After I was done with it, I had this crazy idea: expand upon the list and review baseball-related movies, encourage debate among the GLB brethren on baseball-related pictures that are universally liked, widely panned, or inspire hotly-contested debate between it's supporters and detractors. I also hope that I'm able to express a bit of myself through and my love of baseball and film through these entries and add something new to the community here that hasn't been tapped yet, I feel. Like I said in my Sisterhood of the Traveling Jersey diary, I may not understand all the intricacies of the game like many of the residents here, but I do know movies, and I hope you join me on my adventures in baseball cinema!
So, you must be asking yourself, what kind of movie will I be reviewing?' to start with? Will it be a film that I've been told is a must watch, like Bull Durham? Or will it be something from the previously-mentioned top 5 list and explain why I had the movie ranked where I had it? The answer is neither! I'm beginning this journey with a forgotten romantic comedy called Fever Pitch. Oh, deep joy.
Released in 2005, Fever Pitch is a remake of the 1997 British film of the same name. That film was a fictionalized account of the autobiographical novel by Nick Hornbry, also of the same name. The Americanized version swaps out the North London setting for Boston, and the Arsenal Football Club for the Boston Red Sox, but both plot threads essentially remain the same: Ben Wrightman (SNL alum and future host of The Tonight Show Jimmy Fallon) has been a fan of the Red Sox for as long as he can remember. His life has been devoted to attending Red Sox games and seeing his team break the Curse of the Bambino and win the World Series. He bleeds red and white to the point where every last thing he owns is decked out in Boston paraphernalia (save his toilet paper, which has the Yankees logo on it). Lindsay Meeks (Drew Barrymore, who served as one of the film's producers) on the other hand, is a successful executive, but a workaholic with career ambitions. The pair bond quickly during the 2004 season, but the further the relationship deepens, the more Lindsay realizes that she's competing for the affections of another mistress - the Red Sox themselves. If you're guessing that the pair split up in the third act, then get back together again in the last 15 minutes, then congratulations, you're aware of the oldest and tired cliches in rom-com history!
It's not just the predictability and the sappy sentimentality I'm complaining about (although it really didn't help), it's also how Fallon's character acts like an immature dickhead throughout the film. At one point, he loses his shit when his buddy informs him that he missed the Sox overcoming a seven-run deficit in the last of the 9th to beat the rival Yankees, then takes it out on Lindsay because she wanted him to spend time with her....on her birthday! When you place your hometown team over your girlfriend's special day, then flip out over missing a great game, you deserve to be kicked to the side of the curb! Basically, Ben is an Adam Sandler-lite man-child, but minus the thorough unlikability of many of Sandler's obnoxious characters in his later works. Before the act that would break up the couple, Lindsy invites Ben to a trip to Paris but refuses because the team was in the middle of the playoff chase, where his team needs him the most - an actual line of dialogue spoken in the film. I get that Ben's supposed to be this committed die-hard, but there's a line between passionate baseball fan, and blithering idiot. He flits with the line so often that when Barrymore's character finally dumps him, I really didn't want to see them back together in the end.
But the big problem I had with Fever Pitch is that this isn't what I was expecting from the film's writer/directors, Peter and Bob Farrrelly, the duo who gave us Dumb and Dumber, Kingpin and There's Something About Mary, the later which I consider to be one of the best comedies of the 90's. Their brand of slapstick, sex and toilet humor was juvenile, but oh-so funny! These two brought out the best in their casts, especially in Dumb and Dumber with Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels as Harry and Lloyd, respectively; so it's a shame that they couldn't do the same thing in this movie. To be honest, fans of their work will be severely disappointed, and by the middle, you'll be wishing for more hair gel.
If there's a few aspects about this film I enjoyed, it's that the Farrelly brothers capture what it's like to be a fan of a team. There's actually a rather good line about why Ben loves the Red Sox and you could apply it to being any fan of any team in the Majors.
Troy: Why do we inflict this on ourselves?
Ben: Why? I'll tell you why, 'cause the Red Sox never let you down.
Ben: That's right. I mean - why? Because they haven't won a World Series in a century or so? So what? They're here. Every April, they're here. At 1:05 or at 7:05, there is a game. And if it gets rained out, guess what? They make it up to you. Does anyone else in your life do that? The Red Sox don't get divorced. This is a real family. This is the family that's here for you.
The Farrelly's also capture great shots of Fenway Park as well. Hell, they were allowed to let Drew Barrymore run across the field during one of their games! In addition, they had to do immediate re-writes for the end of the movie because, as we know, Boston went on their historic run to win the ALCS in seven and then capture their first World Series banner in a century. Still, it's not enough to hide cliched writing, a predictable plot, an almost unlikable leading romantic man in Fallon, and jokes that are softer and safer than anything Peter and Bob Farrelly have done. A swing and a miss for this duo.