For Love of the Game

dir Sam Raimi scr Dana Stevens
with Kevin Costner, Kelly Preston, John C Reilly, Brian Cox, Jena Malone, JK Simmons, Bill Rogers, Carmine D Giovinazzo, Hugh Ross, Greer Barnes, Vin Scully, Steve Lyons
Universal 99/US 3 out of 5 stars

Review by Rich Cline
Costner's third baseball film is a big sloppy wet kiss to American's favourite pastime. For Love of the Game is basically a sudsy romance wrapped around en even sudsier ballgame drama. That isn't to say it's a bad film; it's actually very well-made and nicely performed. But it's also a chick flick about sports ... so, frankly, who's it going to satisfy?

Billy Chapel (Costner) is not having a good day. At age 40, his girlfriend Jane (Preston) has just left him, his team owner (Cox) has just told him he's selling the team Billy's pitched with for 19 years, and the new corporate owners plan to trade him to another team. He's in New York for the last game of the season, he's on the pitcher's mound with his good mate (Reilly) as catcher and Vin Scully's florid commentary ringing across the airwaves. And Billy doesn't realise that he's heading for a perfect game ... which might be his last. As he pitches he reminisces about his life, his career and most importantly his relationship with Jane and her teen daughter (Malone).

Heavy sigh. Raimi is at least a good enough filmmaker to keep the production levels very high, with astonishing camera work, beautifully choreographed game sequences and just enough offhanded humour to keep its feet on the ground. Costner helps in this area, with another self-deprecating performance as an everyman-superstar trying to discover what's important in his life. But then Basil Poledouris' soaring score surges once again, and the mostly dull game is turned into seriously dramatic life-or-death stuff. Yes, if you're susceptible to romantic nostalgia or the magic of baseball, this film has the power to get to you (the baseball stuff is more compelling than the romance). Otherwise it's just another wistful, weepy, very long slush-fest.

[12--themes, language] 13.Jun.00
US release 17.Sep.99; UK release 16.Jun.00

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Costner plays Billy Chapel, a pitcher for the Tigers for 19 years. He is about to pitch against the Yankees in the final game of the season. The Tigers have had a dismal year and are out of the playoffs, while the Yankees are expected to win the World Series. The owner of the Tigers confides in Billy that he is selling the team to a business conglomerate, and they want to trade Billy to the Giants. Billy is urged to retire - he has had a great run and, besides, he has always been a Tiger. In the very beginning, we are shown Billy checking into a hotel and expecting someone who never shows. That is the beginning - it sets the scene for the story: the last game of the season, with all these undercurrents, and Billy reflecting on his life through flashbacks, and how it all gets to this point, and this game. I really enjoyed this movie, and highly recommend it. The flashbacks give you an understanding of the man and explain about the woman who did not meet him at the hotel, and why. When they first met, he comments on his father, 'a passionate man, who loved only two things, my mom and baseball.' The key here is the order of priorities, and Billy realizes during the course of this game, that he has had his priorities reversed. That realization helps him make some important decisions. It may be the last game, but the Tigers are determined to not be a red carpet to the World Series for the Yankees! Please go see this movie if you like baseball, and love stories, and just enjoy a well-made movie." --Laurie T, Minneapolis.

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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall