Fever Pitch (2005)

Directed by Peter & Bobby Farrelly
Written by Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel

It should be none too surprising that the year after the Boston Red Sox broke their “Curse of the Bambino” by winning their first World Series Championship in 86 years that not one, but two films surrounding the Boston Red Sox should be released (Game 6 being the other and reviewed previously). Of course, Fever Pitch has a distinctly different story behind not only the film itself, but its production. A remake of the 1997 soccer film starring Colin Firth, and an adaption of a book by Nick Hornby, this version of Fever Pitch deals with baseball. And as any reader of mine would know, I LOVE baseball. However, the idea of a film starring Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore in the leads, directed by the Farrelly Brothers doesn’t immediately strike me as interesting, but I’ll watch anything for baseball. (And of course now Fallon is funny on the Tonight Show, the Farrelly brothers did at least succeed at making Dumb & Dumber hilarious, and Drew Barrymore has shocked me before with her directorial debut, Whip It).

Ben (Jimmy Fallon) has been a lifelong Red Sox fan after his uncle began taking him to games at Fenway Park since Ben was a young boy. Now grown, and a school teacher, Ben spends his summers at Fenway after he inherited his uncle’s season tickets (which are really hard to come by in Red Sox Nation). Lindsey (Drew Barrymore) is a successful and very hard working woman, whose job often overtakes her time for relationships. The unexpected match between the two begins to blossom, as neither feels guilty about their obsession. But soon the relationship strains, right alongside the strain of the season for the Red Sox, who are trying to break their curse. Ben and Lindsey strive to find the right balance between passion for the Red Sox and work, and passion for each other.

I was certainly struck not only by the film’s (and Jimmy Fallon’s) surprising charm, but also by it’s genuine honesty in depicting a sports fan as passionate as Ben. I’ve been there. I am that sports fan to some extents. I don’t have season tickets, I don’t have a single team I cheer for relentlessly like Ben, but I think most sports fans will relate to at least a portion of Ben’s enthusiasm for the game of baseball and the Boston Red Sox. In that regard, the film gets it right, and is aided by a very good performance from Jimmy Fallon, a lifelong New York Yankees fan. I never liked Fallon much on Saturday Night Live, and doubted his ability to carry the Tonight Show, but I’ve been proved wrong, just as I am here. Fallon’s charismatic performance is everything Ben needs to be a likable character with an obsession.

I can’t say that Drew Barrymore surprised me in the same way, her performance is much the same from what we’ve seen from her romantic comedy efforts previously. But the Farrelly brothers seem a little more subdued from their ridiculous brand of comedy with Fever Pitch. Certainly there are moments that make you realize this film is directed by the brothers, but for the most part they stay out of the way of the story, which lets Hornby’s intended sentiment shine through all the more. I would certainly be interested in checking out the original film starring Colin Firth in the lead role, and perhaps I will one day (whenever it is I get to doing a Soccer Movie Marathon).

The obsessed sports fan is universal, no matter the sport, culture or country. For this reason, Ben is relatable, but even more so since his sport of choice is baseball. Really, any obsession can be applied to this romantic scenario. I could certainly glean bits about my own life as a movie buff and film blogger balancing with my current and past relationship with my fiancee. Striking the balance is not easy, especially when such passion is involved, but if you love something (or multiple somethings) you make it work.

I think the last thing I’ll leave you with is the incredible story of the production of the film and its ending. Some may know, others may not, but production was happening at the same time the Red Sox were on their way to an improbable title. It was so improbable that they had to re-write the ending from the Red Sox losing to the Red Sox winning. As a part of this change, the crew flew Barrymore and Fallon to St. Louis for Game 4, when the Red Sox clinched their title. The footage at the end of the film is actual footage of Barrymore and Fallon, in character, celebrating with the real Red Sox after their win. I understand this is no credit to the directors, the writers, or anything other than simply fate, but sometimes the real thing is more incredible and entertaining than the made up story. In this case, this nugget will always elevate Fever Pitch in some way for me, even if I don’t care too much for the Red Sox. You’ve got to hand it to their fans, sticking around after all those years of agony.

*** – Good

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