Fever Pitch (2005) — A romantic pitch-hitter

“You love the Red Sox, but have they ever loved you back?”

Justin’s rating: ‘Cause it’s one, two, three strikes you’re OUT

Justin’s review: Everyone understands passions and obsessions. We all have them — in varying degrees in comparison to each other, but we all do have them. For some, it’s promptness and organization. For others, it’s sitting bare-chest naked on the 50-yard line of a field watching hefty men throw a misshapen ball to and fro. For me, mine are Silly Putty, Mutant Reviewers, and instantly buying any novelty gum that comes on the market.

Fever Pitch is a movie about passions, both the good side and the bad side of them. When we fall passionately in love with something, we run the risk of becoming blind to dangers and open to being hurt by that which we love.

Profound, Professor Justin. Do, tell us more.

Oh, shut up, subconscious.

I’ve got to say, up front, that this movie didn’t exactly rock my world. However, it had enough flavor to leave me vaguely satisfied (my wife moreso, as she’s a sucker for romcoms) It’s based on a novel by Nick Hornby (who also wrote High Fidelity and About A Boy), directed by the Farrelly brothers (There’s Something About Mary), and centered around the miraculous 2004 Red Sox season. Plus, there’s a cameo by Stephen King, who only kills three babies on screen and devours them whole. Fever Pitch possessed a mild, pleasant flavor, indeed, but ultimately it wasn’t too funny to be considered a great comedy, and the romantic storyline was a little too typical in setup and execution to be considered touching.

Lindsey (Drew Barrymore) is an executive with little time for anything but her work; Ben (Jimmy Fallon) is a schoolteacher with little time for anything but his beloved Red Sox. They meet, they date, they fall in love… and then the interesting stuff begins. For Ben is not a weekend Sox fanatic — he’s a full-fledged cult member with the secret decoder ring and everything. His entire apartment is a shrine to the team (even though they hadn’t won a World Series since 1918), and his entire year revolves around the season and seeing every game at home. As their worlds slowly collide with all the force of two bulls headbutting at thirty miles an hour, their relationship is strained on every level. Well, at least one level: What’s more important to each of them, their previous passion or their new-found romance?

It’s kinda funny and kinda sweet, but again, nothing revolutionary. Barrymore has lost the cuteness that once made me fall in love with her, and Fallon constantly looks like someone just hit him in the temple with a rubber mallet five seconds previous. I didn’t care too much whether they’d get back together after the obligatory downfall of the relationship, or really enjoy their other friends and conversations. This sort of thing has been done much, much better in both the writer’s and the directors’ previous works, so comparison doesn’t do anyone any favors here.

That left me with the most interesting part of the movie, the miraculous 2004 Red Sox season where the Sox pulled off two major victories: they won the pennant after being down 0-3 in the playoffs (something no team has done in over 100 years), and they won the world series. The funny thing was, this miraculous season forced the movie itself to change — the filmmakers worked on the assumption that the Sox lost as they always did. Whoops! As the movie is set against the season, but isn’t really about it, it was distracting to expect the attention of the film to be redevoted to the climax of the season instead of the passion in the loins of Ben and Lindsey. It felt like I was craning my head around the romance and trying to get to the good stuff.

But hey, if the story about Red Sox addiction and this season interested you, I’d direct your attention to Stewart O’Nan and Stephen King’s book Faithful, where these two fans chronicled their 2004 season viewing experiences.

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