Fever Pitch   UK title: The Perfect Catch
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly
scr Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel
with Drew Barrymore, Jimmy Fallon, James B Sikking, JoBeth Williams, Ione Skye, Willie Garson, KaDee Strickland, Jack Kehler, Evan Helmuth, Marissa Jaret Winokur, Armando Riesco, Miranda Black
release US 8.Apr.05, UK 5.Aug.05
05/US Fox 1h38

Take me out to the ballgame: Fallon and Barrymore

barrymore fallon strickland

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Fever Pitch Nick Hornby's classic English football novel (nicely filmed in 1997 with Colin Firth) makes a decent transfer across the Atlantic to become an ode to baseball. A likeable cast and a breezy tone make the film watchable, even if the plot has been badly stretched and simplified.

Schoolteacher Ben (Fallon) has been obsessed with the Boston Red Sox since he was 7, so inheriting a pair of prime season tickets was about the best thing that could've happened to him. But his over-the-top baseball mania has sabotaged every relationship he's had. Then he meets Lindsay (Barrymore), a high-powered career woman and girl of his dreams. But the impending 2004 baseball season is going to shake their relationship to the breaking point. And possibly beyond.

Although their relationship is never in doubt, since the writers have forced Hornby's story into a standard rom-com structure. This predictable plot feels increasingly contrived and corny as it tries to convince us that anything unexpected might happen. So the only surprise is the baseball season; in 2004 the Sox inconceivably broke their near century-long losing streak, requiring last-minute rewrites that turn the film into an even sweeter fairy tale than was intended.

Fortunately, there's enough raw talent to sustain even the lamest plotline. Barrymore is as effortlessly charming as always. Indeed, she barely breaks a sweat with this performance, and yet she still wins us over completely. Fallon is surprisingly good, cancelling out his horrible previous film (which I will not mention) to make Ben a genuinely cute, nice guy with a very scary side. They're surrounded by a large selection of wacky friends, colleagues and family members who, rather than scene-stealing, combine into a nicely realistic community around the central couple.

The Farrellys rein in their grotesque humour (besides one terrific sequence that centres on vomiting). Basically, the comedy isn't very funny, and the romance is deeply predictable. But the characters are endearing and the baseball stuff actually captures the magic of the game, filmed at real matches and highlighting the camaraderie between fans and the atmosphere of the stands.

cert PG themes, language, innuendo 26.May.05

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2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall