Universal // 1999 // 138 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // October 18th, 2007
Billy Chapel must choose between the woman he loves and the game he lives for.
That's nice, but do I really have to watch?
Mr. Billy Chapel (Kevin Costner, Field of Dreams) is a one-time powerhouse major league pitcher now on the tail-end of his career, looking at a looming retirement. His beloved Detroit Tigers are about to be sold and his final game of the season is against the dirtbag Yankees, who, according to this film, everyone including nuns in third world orphanages despise.
Before he takes the mound, he's hit with a piece of bad news: Jane (Kelly Preston), the love of his life, is taking off for London and Billy's not invited. This crushing revelation couldn't come at a worse time and despite the attempts to cheer him up by his best friend and catcher (John C. Reilly), Billy is a dude who's down in the dumps.
But with a hostile New York crowd jeering him and an intimidating batting lineup facing him, Billy will find himself on the cusp of pitching the greatest game of his life, fining time between strikeouts to reminisce back to happier days when he was frolicking with his beloved in his arms and the birds were chirping and the flowers were smiling and lollipop leprechauns told him magical stories about puppies and gumdrops and sunshine.
This is one corny movie. Maybe I'm a cold-hearted jackass, but I suffered greatly through the entirety of this film, didn't care a whit about the love story and found the baseball stuff cliché-riddled and boring. In short: this film was as entertaining and useful to me as a botched catheter.
Costner has done his share of baseball films and it's probably accurate to say he's the most familiar face with the genre. But For Love of the Game is the weakest I've seen. Nothing worked for me. It was the anti-Field of Dreams; I felt none of the emotions that were intended.
Adoration for baseball? Yeah, I'm a fan, but the baseball scenes were so ham-fisted and the big plays telegraphed (hey, do you think the outfielder who missed a pivotal catch years ago comes through with an amazing play this time? maybe he does, maybe he does), it was if I were watching a baseball-themed episode from Full House instead of a realistic sports movie. Worse were the monologues Chapel had with himself, a goofy element of the film where the character essentially gave a running color commentary of his current thoughts.
Heart-tugging feel-goodness from the love story? Ha, not even close. Look, I'll take a chick flick with the best of them, but at least make the love story halfway interesting. I may not possess as well-honed a sense of on-screen romance as others, but I can tell when the leads have the chemistry of a pair of lawn gnomes. Costner does his every-guy charm routine okay and Kelly Preston complains a lot and her character teaches her counterpart lots of valuable life lessons, all told as flashbacks between innings of the centerpiece game. How dopey and stale was the relationship stuff? I was actually yearning to be taken back to the dopey and stale baseball stuff.
General satisfaction for being entertained for two hours? Nope. When a film is compartmentalized into two storytelling approaches like this, and both flounder, there's not much to go to amusement-wise, except maybe giggling at the knowledge that Sam Raimi directed this before he was swimming in gold bullion and negotiable bearer bonds.
On the plus side, the HD DVD picture quality is impressive. Clocking in with a 2.35:1 widescreen, 1080p facelift, the video flaunts its high-def credentials well. The baseball scenes look great, with the expansive crowd features standing out. The sport sequences are captured masterfully as well with details holding strong throughout. It's a fine-looking treatment. Universal has gotten the lossless audio memo, too, with a TrueHD track pushing the sound, buttressed by two Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 mixes (English and French). As you would guess, the sound stands out most during the baseball game. The extras are lean: a boilerplate making-of featurette, deleted scenes, some text-only info on the history of the perfect game and a trivia game. Yawn.
The idea was probably to combine baseball and romance into an all-powerful film that would attract both the men and the women. Too bad both of these elements whiff at the plate.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (French)
Running Time: 138 Minutes
Release Year: 1999
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Spotlight on Location
* Deleted Scenes
* The Perfect Game
* Trivia Game