Movie Review: Fever Pitch

The Basics: Yes, it's about the Red Sox and baseball and true love and all of that. But the real premise of this oddball comedy '- pun intended '- is that any 30-something single who has never been married and is not in a long-term relationship must have some fatal flaw that makes him or her unfit for human companionship. That goes for men as well as for women, although in this film, it's the women who seem to have the lock on perfection.

The Catch: The onus of weirdness falls entirely on Ben Wrightman (the name is an obvious pun intended by the filmmakers), who Jimmy Fallon plays with more than just a nod to his fellow Saturday Night Live alum Adam Sandler. Ben's a Red Sox fan, which anyone who was awake during 2004 knows used to evoke the character traits of loyalty, eternal optimism, desperation and lunacy. He is not just a regular fan, either, but a pathologically obsessed one with season tickets for a prime seat behind the dugout. His apartment is filled with Red Sox doodads. He sleeps in Red Sox pajamas. He travels every year to spring training in Florida. And absent any family of his own, he considers the people who have seats near him to be his "summer family."

But is he really the weird one? His love interest, Lindsey Meeks (Drew Barrymore), is a high-powered number cruncher of some sort, which in any other scenario would make her the strange one. Given the hoopla about women and science, how did she end up in such a job? It would be interesting to know. But while we find out every detail of Ben's psychological dependency on the Red Sox '- losing his dad, moving to Boston at seven and feeling lost, connecting with his uncle through baseball '- we don't find out much about Lindsey other than that her parents seem to have a decent marriage and she wants a promotion at her job.

Barrymore can get across cute neurosis with the flip of her hair and the twitch of her nose '- which she has relied on in every movie since E.T. '- but that's not enough here to convey an equality of character. Directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly, with a script adapted by a Hollywood team from British writer Nick Hornby's memoir about being a soccer fan, don't give her enough to do. She is simply one of the demanding women she makes fun of at first, lamenting that her boyfriend likes sports better than he likes her.

Why It's Good: In the absence of any reason to root for Lindsey, Ben's quirks become endearing '- at least he has a deep-seated reason for being the way he is. And midway through the film, Fallon switches from trying to match Sandler to imitating Jimmy Stewart, which gives him much more depth as a romantic leading man. He makes the payoff work when Lindsey finally understands that she's become no fun.

Why It's Not: Maybe it's not Lindsey's fault. Maybe it's the translation from a British sport to baseball that hurts this story, although sticking with it didn't seem to help a 1997 version starring Colin Firth. Maybe it's that history intervened and the Red Sox finally won, giving the romance a sunny exterior when this is really a story about losing. Maybe it's just the Curse of the Bambino.

 

iVillage Mood Meter: Will make you go weepy for Carl Yastrzemski but not for Drew Barrymore

 

Stars: Jimmy Fallon, Drew Barrymore
Directors: Peter and Bobby Farrelly
Screenwriters: Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel
Producers: Marc S. Fischer, Nick Hornby
Release date: April 8
Rated: PG-13
Distributor: 20th Century Fox

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