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Fever Pitch   B+

20th Century Fox

Year Released: 2005
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly
Writers: Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel (based on the novel by Nick Hornby)
Cast: Drew Barrymore, Jimmy Fallon, Lenny Clarke, Ione Skye, Marissa Jaret Winokur, James B. Sikking, JoBeth Williams.

Review by Sean O'Connell

Fever Pitch might be the first baseball comedy girls convince their guys to see. By the end, both will be pointing at the screen and saying, "You see, that's how I feel about sports."

Keeping both sexes in mind, directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly have created a sweetly sentimental ode to romance, compromise, and the Boston Red Sox -- a scrappy baseball squad affectionately referred to as "God's most pathetic creatures."

The Farrellys are both the right and wrong choice to tackle Pitch. Proud New Englanders, the brothers are card-carrying members of Red Sox Nation. How they missed casting fellow Fenway junkie Matt Damon in the lead is beyond me. But the Farrellys specialize in lampooning conjoined twins and multiple personalities, so you might enter Pitch expecting a broad comedy with locker-room laughs. What you get, instead, is an accurate handbook for handling relationship problems between you, your significant other, and the professional team you've worshipped since birth.

For Ben (Jimmy Fallon), that team is Beantown's finest, perennial heartbreakers and (depending on who you ask) victims of a decades-old curse administered by Babe Ruth himself. Ben keeps his Red Sox obsession under wraps when he first meets workaholic Lindsey (Drew Barrymore). In the early stages of their relationship, earnest Ben makes sacrifices to accommodate Lindsey's hectic schedule. As we slowly meander through Ben and Lindsey's realistic courtship, Pitch takes too long to find its way. The Farrellys squeeze the anticipated vomit jokes and sight gags out of their system, and the first act drowns in sweet but toothless jokes that drop faster than Pedro Martinez's sinker.

But that's why baseball games aren't decided in the second inning, and why movies shouldn't be judged until the credits roll. Once the baseball season officially begins, and Red Sox fanatic Ben wakes up from his off-season hibernation, Pitch stages a miraculous comeback worthy of the film's cherished squad. Now the shoe is on the other foot, as Lindsey has to cope with something that's so important to Ben. Suddenly, the film's early paces make a lot of sense, both to Lindsey and to us.

The lore of Red Sox fever ends up being hallowed ground for the Farrellys, and they inject the right amount of sentimentality where they'd usually throw in sleazy humor. Fallon, at first, chugs along as an interchangeable part in the larger Barrymore formula (Adam Sandler could have stepped in to pinch-hit at any point without missing a beat). But these two grow on each other, and on us, to the point where we're rooting hard for their fairy-tale ending.

In Red Sox Nation, every road to the heart runs through Fenway Park. But Fever Pitch works so well on multiple levels that you could remove the Sox and plug in any other baseball team without changing the message. Or remove baseball and substitute another sport you obsess over. In fact, it doesn't have to be sports, at all. Some people behave that way over similar distractions. Like movies. Yeah, I think I can relate.

Review published 04.07.2005.

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