Fever Pitch (2005) Movie Review

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You'll have to forgive my small bias for this Farrelly Brothers boy-meets-girl-but-loves-baseball-team charmer. As an 18-year resident of Boston, the movie's ever-present backdrop, I hooked onto this breezy romantic comedy like an eager fish.

It's not like I'm devoted to our beloved Red Sox as obsessively as Ben Wrightman (Jimmy Fallon, in all his awkward glory). When Ben, a high-energy math teacher meets Lindsey, Drew Barrymore's on-the-rise executive, it's wintertime and Ben is, well, different. Because each April, Ben's only love is 26 guys, a ballpark, and a dream... the world of the Boston Red Sox.

As time goes by, Ben's heart belongs to Lindsey -- and with Barrymore's earthy, sweet, unending charm, who wouldn't? -- but his years of devotion are with the Sox, dating back to his crusty uncle (local boy Lenny Clarke) taking him to his first game. So compromise and understanding might get the couple through the All-Star Break, but will it take them past the Fall Classic?

As most folks know, the 2004 Red Sox playoff run (the film takes place last year) had enough heartbreak, suspense, and elation to fit perfectly into a will-they-or-won't-they romance. Almost too perfectly. You'd think veteran screenwriters Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel (Parenthood) made a deal with a higher power previously unavailable to decades of New England baseball fans.

Well, beyond a clichéd intro and some minor gaps here and there, it all works pretty darned well. Just as a diehard sports fan might enjoy re-watching an event whose outcome is already known, those who like even the occasional love story will appreciate the path of this one, even when the result follows format.

The Farrellys, leaving behind one-note concept comedies like Shallow Hal and Stuck on You for this Nick Hornby adaptation (a remake of a soccer-oriented film), make a smooth transition to content that requires a deeper heart and wider range of emotion. Part of Fever Pitch's charm is in knowing that when Ben and Lindsey share a particularly sweet moment in bed, it's touching not because of the acting or writing, but because the Farrellys have developed enough substance for us to feel that this couple really means something.

The brothers' trademark humor is still there -- it just makes cameo appearances instead of big, lead-role flourishes. Also making cameos are a string of Boston locals, ranging from Red Sox brass to hometown broadcasters, another Farrelly Brothers trademark that their New England fans appreciate, and one that adds a smidgen of authenticity. Whether you know the participants or not, it is kind of heartwarming to know that these two schnooks from Rhode Island still put their buddies in their movies.

I imagine that Fever Pitch will work on different levels for different moviegoers. If you like straight-ahead, date-movie romance, it's a winner. Not as snappy as, say, Hitch, but warmer and more sincere. If you're a baseball fan, Fever Pitch conveys that aura of a summer night at the ballpark -- made even better by newfound love. And if you're a Red Sox fan? Man, you're in heaven.

It's not a tumor!

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Fever Pitch (2005) Rating

" Good "

Rating: PG-13, 2005


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