“Fever Pitch” probably won’t please many Red Sox diehards, but is that really possible anyway?
Bostonians are never happy. We take what is said about our team and our fans personally. Which is why if you’re a Sox fan, I suggest taking a few deep breaths if you choose to see this movie. You will nit pick, you will point out inaccuracies, and you might even curse out Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore a few times.
But if you get over the fact that this Farrelly Brothers (“Dumb and Dumber,” “There’s Something About Mary”) flick is a romantic comedy, not a documentary on the Red Sox, you might enjoy it. Because as far as romantic comedies go, “Fever Pitch” is infinitely less painful to watch than any recent Jennifer Lopez or Richard Gere vehicle.
In his most high profile starring role to date, Fallon (who always looks like he’s oh so pleased with himself) plays Ben, a hopeless Red Sox supporter moonlighting as a schoolteacher. Lindsey (Barrymore) is the love interest learning to deal with Ben’s Sox related rituals, which will look familiar to fans of any sports team. They provide some of the movie’s biggest laughs.
In reality, the biggest ailment the movie suffers from is that on the whole, it’s not as obsessed with the Red Sox as Fallon’s character (or any real Sox fan) is. It’s as if all of Ben’s idiosyncrasies are just a side show to the common romance with Barrymore, who gives a realistic, but generic performance as a work-obsessed woman who can’t quite understand her boyfriend’s unconditional faith in a baseball team. I suppose it’s tough to market a Hollywood movie almost solely based on a superstitious obsession.
The loose adaptation of British author Nick Hornby’s book of the same name (which is about a fan obsessed with Arsenal, a team in England’s Premier League) is also tamer than most Farrelly fueled comedies, but the humor seeps out a bit in the occasional Fallon one-liner or dirty sight gag involving male private parts. Ben and Lindsey’s friends do provide solid comic moments, especially wacky anesthesiologist Kevin, who is played by Farrelly movie mainstay Willie Garson.
But beyond the light doses of humor, there is most substance here. Boiled down to the bone, “Fever Pitch” is about Fallon’s faith, which to a fault is stronger to the Red Sox than it is for anything or anyone else. Like any real Sox fan or any person invested in a cause or relationship, Ben’s faith is questioned – this time, out loud, by a deadpan junior varsity baseball player named Ryan (Brett Murphy). Then and only then does Ben realize life goes beyond baseball – the perpetual struggle of many a Sox fan.