erasing clouds

Fever Pitch Hits a Double

film review by matthew webber

How much youíll like Fever Pitch depends on how much you tolerate the following:

- Baseball.

- Plot contrivances in any post-Annie Hall romantic comedy that postpone and then force the inevitable happy ending.

- The Americanization of another Nick Hornby novel.

- The same messy-haired man-boy character former Saturday Night Live star Jimmy Fallon has been playing since he was a boy.

- The same adorable girlfriend character Drew Barrymore has been playing ever she became the girlfriend of one of The Strokes.

From its script to its casting, from its tone to its cuteness, Fever Pitch could have been as middling a romantic comedy as anything Hollywood has thrown down the plate this year, except for the interplay between all of the above.

The major plot, of course, follows the meeting, courting, falling out, and reconciling of Ben the Schoolteacher and Lindsey the Executive, a mismatched-but-not couple whose passions for things outside of the relationship almost doom the relationship but donít because this is a movie.

Lindseyís extracurricular activity is the more mature of the two: In order to earn a promotion, she works overtime, loses sleep, and even brings her laptop to the Red Sox games she attends with Ben, all the while learning how to appreciate, if not the game of baseball, at least her time with Ben.

But Ben, really the main character in what is really a romantic comedy for men, is a hapless fanatic whose baseball-themed bedroom dťcor resembles that of his studentsí, some of whom probably are able to maintain more productive relationships with members of the opposite sex because they donít schedule dates around games. In a word, Ben is obsessed, or, in another, completely-out-of-his-gourd; at one point, he turns down a romantic getaway to Paris with Lindsey because he believes the team needs him. Itís not until he grows up that he realizes how much he needs Lindsey.

All of this is typical coming-of-age/quarter-life-crisis territory for Hornby (even if Fever Pitch has little to do with his soccer book or previous movie adaptation), the author of lad-lit staples High Fidelity and About a Boy. Sadly, it also might be typical behavior for, one assumes, the men who will be dragged to this movie by their wives and girlfriends but who actually might enjoy the filmís pacing, which coincides with the Red Soxís curse-breaking championship run in 2004.

Released during baseballís opening month, Fever Pitch is at times more a romance for the game of baseball than for the game of love, so itís easy to see why Lindsey gets so frustrated with her boyfriend - as a viewer, itís hard not to get frustrated with him yourself.

Yet, despite his childish antics, I only found Fallon annoying once, which is why I might be the subjective moviegoer to whom this movie is targeted instead of an objective critic. Really, there is no discernible reason for finding an actor of limited range, one major flop (Taxi), and perpetually untucked shirts cool, but, inexplicably or not, I somehow related to Fallonís boyish charm, but probably only because I, too, am a baseball fan of approximately his age who is struggling to balance The Important Things in Life like a career, relationships, and wearing the right sweater.

In fact, Fever Pitch follows In Good Company and Guess Who as the third male-centered romantic comedy Iíve seen and enjoyed this year, making either the genre a new trend or me a new demographic.

But anyone who likes or at least can sit through the items on my introductory list can like or at least sit through what Iíll describe in critic-speak as ďthis sweet concoction of a movie, a Farrelly Brothers comedy as airy and enjoyable as stadium cotton candy,Ē and, in my own speech, as a rewatchable highlight reel of a season and a relationship.


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