Fever Pitch

2005, Movie, PG-13, 103 mins


The course of true love never runs smooth, but when one of the lovers is a serious sports fan, the road to romance can become a minefield. Loosely based on U.K. writer Nick Hornby's best-selling 1992 memoir of soccer obsession (already filmed in 1997, also as FEVER PITCH), and directed by Bobby and Peter Farrelly, this romantic comedy about a guy, a girl and the Boston Red Sox is surprisingly sweet and free of gross-out humor. Math teacher Ben Wrightman (Jimmy Fallon) is a rabid fan, the guy who not only has a season subscription and every piece of Red Sox memorabilia worth having, but also uses Yankees toilet paper in his bathroom. Brainy, successful Lindsey Meeks (Drew Barrymore) doesn't know a foul ball from a ball bearing (until one smacks her in the head), but she and Ben meet during off season, when Ben's assets — he's funny, considerate, smart, nice and doesn't live in his mother's basement — have time to shine. Ambitious, career-oriented Lindsey has been reevaluating her dating strategies in light of a string of shallow, manipulative creeps, and thinks Ben's feverish devotion to the losingest team in the major leagues is a quirk, an eccentricity that can be accommodated through compromise. Then spring training arrives and Ben's inner BoSox monster emerges. Lindsey's plan to work on her career goals while Ben is sequestered at Fenway Park fails dismally, and Ben gets the familiar sinking feeling that precedes the big blowup, the one that comes down to the frustrated words "but it's only a game." Modern-day American romantic comedies are in a real bind: Plausible but amusing obstacles to relationships between attractive young people are thin on the ground, and screenwriters regularly reduce their star-crossed cuties to dismal depths of moronic jerkiness in the name of keeping them apart until the crowd-pleasing third-act clinch. But extreme fandom fills the bill; you can even buy that Lindsey sees something sweetly noble in Ben's unwavering loyalty to a team that never wins. That the Farrellys shot during the Red Sox' 2004 season, when they not only made it to the World Series — beating the hated Yankees in the playoffs — but won for the first time in 86 years should have sunk the film, but it doesn't. If you're rooting for Barrymore and Fallon, then why not their team? In the movies, there are enough happy endings for everyone. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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