Fever Pitch

The Boston Red Sox, with the infamous curse of the Bambino, did not win a World Series in over eighty years. This was the perfect American counterpart to the Arsenal football (soccer) team, the subject of Nick Hornby's novel Fever Pitch. The novel was about a man obsessed with the team, so much so that it interfered with his ability to carry on a relationship. However, when adapting the novel to baseball, nobody expected the Red Sox to win. This forced some emergency reshoots to incorporate actual events into the film, changing the tone of the movie from a great Nick Hornby adaptation (he also wrote High Fidelity and About a Boy) to a typical romantic comedy, with a little more substance than usual.

The most surprising element about Fever Pitch is Drew Barrymore (50 First Dates, Duplex). She still comes off as likable, as she nearly always does, but this time there is more substance to her character. There is actually some depth to her, and Barrymore is able to come across as very believable. She is Lindsey Meeks, who is nearing thirty (she calls it twenty-ten), and finds herself single while her circle of friends are all paired off. Lindsey chose to focus on her career, and now finds that all the men she dates have something seriously wrong with them. Ben Wrightman (Jimmy Fallon, Taxi, Anything Else) seems different. He's funny, charming, and a schoolteacher, something she initially balks at. But they hit it off, and things are too good to be true. Then, baseball season starts. Lindsey knew Ben was a fan, but didn't realize how big a fan he was. Ben is the uber-Sox fan. During baseball season, he spends every waking moment living and breathing Red Sox.

The crux of the film is that of priorities. What is most important to Lindsey? To settle down with Ben means a life of baseball. Is it worth it? For Ben, he has found somebody he genuinely loves. Is this love greater than his love for baseball? It shouldn't be any surprise that Fever Pitch comes from Bobby and Peter Farrelly (Stuck On You, Shallow Hal). Beneath all of the gross-out antics of their films are nice heartwarming stories. Fever Pitch strips away most of the toilet humor (don't worry, there's still a little bit) and lets the adaptation by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel (Robots, Where the Heart Is) work its charms. Nevertheless, most of the credit should go to Hornby, who writes great novels about men coming to terms with their flaws. In fact, Fever Pitch was already adapted once, starring Colin Firth and with its original football.

But the Farrellys opt to go the more conventional. Fever Pitch is more of a romantic comedy than anything else, but there is that sliver of substance that makes the film a little different from the herd. Lindsey and Ben go through all the typical genre motions while a colorful cast of supporting friends crack jokes and offer advice. Fallon plays the same, semi-bumbling character he seems to gravitate towards, and is probably the largest weak point in Fever Pitch (he's far too lightweight in the company of John Cusack, Hugh Grant, and Firth). Still, Barrymore and Fallon have decent chemistry, and the script is able to gently poke fun at the religion of sports without outright mocking it. Because of this, it is highly accessible to all, since everybody knows someone utterly devoted to sports.

Haro Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 41 minutes, Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, and some sensuality.

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