2005, PG-13, 103 min. Directed by Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly. Starring Drew Barrymore, Jimmy Fallon, Lenny Clarke, Jack Kehler.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., April 8, 2005
Die-hard fans of Nick Hornby’s first, best novel, Fever Pitch, which chronicles in hypermasculine minutiae the ups and downs (mostly downs) of the legendary Highbury, North London, footballers Arsenal F.C., and which serves as the basis for this drastically Americanized remake, should read no further. Instead, I recommend you either crack a lager and break out your tape of the ’79 FA Cup Final rout of Manchester United, or – and this may be the wiser option, since there’ll be others like you around to commiserate – head on over to Fadó and wait for the next match to shimmy down the satellite pipeline. Whatever you do, don’t go into the Farrelly brothers’ Fever Pitch seeking an adaptation along the lines of the merely Yankified remix of the Hornby novel High Fidelity: This is not that. Instead, the Farrellys and writers Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel have chucked Hornby’s exhilarating ode to the Gunners, and by extension all things football, and replaced the novelist’s finest hour with – wait for it! – baseball. Specifically, it’s about the Boston Red Sox and their splendid, wholly miraculous 2004 World Series victory, which, to be fair, did indeed rival the Gunners and their rabid, emotionally suicidal, eternally optimistic fans the "gooners." But still … baseball? Godsend striker Ian Wright would be spinning in his tomb were he dead. The "pitch" here, obviously, refers not to the grassy green of Highbury but to Curt Schilling’s Fenway fastballs, and that single noun is just about the only similarity between Hornby’s book and this film. (For a more literarily accurate outing, I suggest renting the 1997 British version, which at least features Colin Firth as Hornby’s alter-ego.) Here, instead, we get former SNLer Fallon as Ben, a middle school math teacher and Red Sox fan nonpareil, who falls in love with fast-tracking career gal Lindsey (Barrymore), and then sees both his love of the game and the girl jeopardized by each other. It’s a romantically comedic take on the metaphysics of love, loss, and Beantown brouhahas, and as such it’s a sweet, charming little puffball, the same one Barrymore’s been doing for what seems like ages now. This Fever Pitch only comes alive – and only sporadically at that – when it dips into the emotional reservoir of alpha-male underdoggery, as evidenced by Ben’s ravenous diet of all things Red Sox. The scenes of him shrieking at the ESPN cameras with unbridled glee as he and his pals hang out in Florida at Sox spring training is a nakedly honest depiction of what it means to love sport – any sport – but Fever Pitch also, less charmingly, holds the moment up for ridicule. "Who are these nutjobs, anyway?" the Farrellys appear to be saying, and then completely fail to answer the question. Hornby, at least, lets you in on the secret. Here, it’s replaced by a trite, cliché-ridden pas de deux that feels craggy in its first few blossoms. Ugh. The Farrellys, too, are treading water. They’ve replaced their earlier, more juvenile (and vastly more entertaining) schtick with something approaching what passes for mainstream comedy these days. Ultimately, it’s a bore. Don’t see the movie – read the book, play the game.