Since a soccer field is called a "pitch," Judge Ryan Keefer wonders why this movie isn't called Fever Diamond.
"I like being part of something that's bigger than me. It's good for your soul to invest in something that you can't control."
Great, another romantic comedy that stars Drew Barrymore, but her male lead is that annoying personality from Saturday Night Live named Jimmy Fallon. And not only is this based on a book by Nick Hornby, but the film was originally made in England in 1997. So, the obvious question is: Was a remake really necessary?
Facts of the Case
Fever Pitch was directed by Peter and Bobby Farrelly. The Farrelly brothers are not people that one would assume could capably direct a romantic comedy. The Farrelly brothers are executive producers of an upcoming film called The Ringer, about a couple of guys who try to fix the Special Olympics. It would seem that a tender side would be missing in their filmmaking, and when they were brought on to direct this film, it must have been an interesting decision. How could they pull it off?
Ben (Fallon) is a math teacher who really likes the Boston Red Sox. Through a field trip with several students, he meets Lindsey (Barrymore), and the two eventually hit it off. He meets Lindsey after the Sox 2003 season, and the relationship evolves and runs into 2004. His Sox passion begins to interfere with his relationship, and in the middle of the season, that makes things all the more complicated between them. Set against the real-life events in October 2004 when the Sox won the pennant and eventually the Series, the only thing left to find out is if Ben and Lindsey will live their lives happily ever after—after they try to avoid getting trampled in the celebrations that follow the historic victory.
There are a couple of reactions you might experience when watching Fever Pitch. The first is "Why is anyone remaking a movie that's only eight years old?" Well, while the English version is fairly recent, not many people have seen it, so why not center a film on the passions of a Boston baseball fan? It's a logical decision. And Hornby has had two other films adapted into films rather well in High Fidelity and About a Boy. Generally, Hornby assumes the role of lonely male fairly well in his novels, but it's in the films where those personas really stand out. John Cusack did an amazing job breaking down the proverbial communication barrier by talking to the camera in High Fidelity and the voiceover work done in About a Boy help to make the film both hilarious and poignant. Generally, Hornby takes topics that men identify with, incorporates women into them and shows how tough the balance is between men's interests and relationships.
Barrymore turns in a quality performance as Lindsey, and in a welcome change from her usual roles, she actually plays a professional woman for once! Fallon was more of the wild card as Ben, but he does the part justice. In the original, Colin Firth (Bridget Jones's Diary) was more of a pensive, almost neurotic man whose true self came to form when watching his soccer club. Fallon is a bit more socially outgoing and quick on his feet, and his "hobby" is something that Barrymore is accepting of and tries to work around, even when it's more obtrusive than the average proctology exam. But he's very appealing and humorous, even briefly showing off an underrated Jimmy Stewart impression. Many of the friends in Ben and Lindsey's circles, with the exception of Willie Garson (Sex and the City) and Ione Skye (Say Anything), are relatively unknown, which is nice. Along with the rest of the supporting cast, they do their jobs, which in this case is making Fallon and Barrymore look good. While there were some moments during Fallon's ranting which sounded eerily familiar (the 'spring training' trip description sounded like things that any fan of any team would say), it seemed as if the edges from the book were slightly softened to make it more acceptable somehow. That's not to say that the film is disappointing; adapted for American audiences by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandell, whose writing credits include things like A League of Their Own, City Slickers, and Parenthood, the story still remains a funny and charming look at some of the crazed rituals that male sports fans go through.
Fox normally gives each movie an ample amount of informative extras, but Fever Pitch is a little light in this department. The Farrellys provide a commentary track that doesn't enlighten, nor does it provide any really good production stories. After listening to this track, one can get an excellent idea of who the "stock" Farrelly actors are. There are several brief looks at the film, each with the message that a rewrite was in order once the Sox provided their own real-life drama. Along with a 6 minute gag reel that is nothing more than flubs and mistakes, there are 13 deleted scenes with optional Farrelly commentary that explains the reason for their omission in the film.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
To be honest, there's not much to complain about in the movie. It's a cute, americanized version of a film based on great material by Hornby. The main difference between this version and the original is that the original is closer to the source material. In the original, Firth expresses his feelings and reasons for being a tortured fan a lot better than Fallon does. With Fallon's Sox obsession, it's a given that he's tortured, but he doesn't go into too many reasons why, so that is a mild disappointment.
It's a much better film than one would anticipate, given the stars and directors. Mandel and Ganz have done an excellent adaptation and the recent real-life events give things a tangible feeling. This may be the film that gives Fallon a good starting point in his acting career.
The Farrelly Brothers, Fallon, and Barrymore are free to go as a result of their work in the film. Fox is sentenced to time served for remaking what was an already acceptable movie and not adding anything original to it.
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