Drew Barrymore as Lindsey Meeks
Jimmy Fallon as Ben
Jason Spevack as Ben in 1980
Jack Kehler as Al
Scott Severance as Artie
Jessamy Finet as Theresa
Maureen Keiller as Viv
Lenny Clarke as Uncle Carl
Ione Skye as Molly
KaDee Strickland as Robin
Marissa Jaret Winokur as Sarah
Evan Helmuth as Troy
Brandon Craggs as Casey
Brett Murphy as Ryan
Isabella Fink as Audrey
With neither the cleverness of Hornby’s source material nor the easy Farrelly laughs, Fever Pitch ends up being another safe, somewhat charming but ultimately disappointing romantic comedy.
Hardworking businesswoman Lindsey Meeks (Drew Barrymore) has had problems with relationships until she meets Ben Wrightman (Jimmy Fallon), a mild-mannered school teacher who normally wouldn’t even be in her league. She gives him a chance and their relationship is going well until baseball season starts. Apparently, Ben is a fanatic Boston Red Sox fan who has to go to every game, and he quickly drags Lindsey kicking and screming into his obsession.
Author Nick Hornby certainly knows how to come up with unique yet realistic male characters, but for his 1992 non-fiction book Fever Pitch, he took center stage to examine his own fanatic love for British football, known here as soccer. Now, Hornby’s novel has been reworked into a second film–Hornby scripted the original himself–with the only thing this one having in common with his self- reflective book being the title.
In the hands of Hollywood, Fever Pitch is a fictionalized romantic comedy set in Boston with the sport of the main character’s affection being transformed into America’s favorite pastime, baseball. Sure, it should work and this Americanization should be forgivable considering how well the movie based on Hornby’s High Society turned out. Even the choice of the Farrelly Brothers, kings of low-brow comedy, to direct it shouldn’t dissuade those who have found the romance inherent in the tasteless humor of movies like There’s Something about Mary and Shallow Hal.
The first half-hour of the movie introduces the unlikely relationship between Lindsey and Ben, two people who normally wouldn’t tolerate the other one for very long. Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore have so little chemistry together, that it’s not believable, even through the magic of movies, that they would get together, let alone make things work. The two actors spend much of the movie trying to one-up each other by being overly cute or annoying.
Things only start to get interesting when the movie gets into the real fanaticism of sports fans. It’s pretty obvious that the writers of this movie are diehard baseball fans, so they certainly understand where Ben is coming from, but they tend to miss the mark on what makes Hornby’s original so genuine, instead turning it into a rather bland and predictable romantic comedy.
If you don’t like baseball, you’re stuck trying to believe in the relationship, since the writers fail to make that possible, you have to hope that the comedy hits the mark. Unfortunately, the only real laugh out loud moments come when the Farrellys stop playing it safe and play up to their strengths, the insanely ludicrous low-brow humor. But there isn’t very much of that, and even the bits that are guaranteed laughs are toned down as to not offend the delicate nature of romantic comedy audiences.
Of course, Barrymore has plenty of experience playing up to that crowd–twice now with Adam Sandler–but her character is so whiny that you can never feel anything but contempt for her. As hard as it is to type these words, she’s actually found an even less funny and talented co-star than Sandler for this one. While Jimmy Fallon isn’t completely awful in the movie, he’s obviously better at the comedy than playing a romantic lead; his non-stop quips throughout the movie come across as smarmy, rather than charming. This isn’t good, because over the course of the movie, he needs to win the audience over to his side, and he’s not nearly as effective at doing this as John Cusack and Hugh Grant were able to do in their own respective Hornby movies. The only time that Fallon really shines is when he plays the over-the-top Red Sox fanatic, including a very funny television appearance during spring training.
Because the Red Sox World Series win was last year and so much has happened since then, the movie seems dated. It doesn’t help that anyone who reads the newspapers already knows how this movie ends, because it’s so heavily linked to the outcome of the team’s season. Of course, Fallon and the Farrellys–presumably all Sox fans–probably loved reliving those moments over and over in post-production, but other than Red Sox fans, there’s very little that others might find charming in the mix of sports and romance.
The Bottom Line:
Fever Pitch is disappointing as a comedy and hard to stomach as a romance, a real shame considering the credentials of those involved. Baseball fans might get something out of it, but otherwise, this mixture of genres doesn’t really work.