Usually even if I see a movie like this I wouldn’t review it. Because you know, light-hearted romantic comedy is not my area of expertise. But if a movie critic is a bear then FEVER PITCH is a big pile of fish slathered in a barrel of honey, and I think you know why. Because it’s easy as shit to write baseball puns and metaphors. It’s fuckin tee-ball for the hack headline writers of the world. Sometimes they wonder how the fuck they gonna come up with a pun for a movie headline, but with a baseball movie you hit control-A for “strikes out,” control-B for “swings for the fences.”
Actually I don’t think either of those is true, FEVER PITCH is more like a double or a triple or maybe a real good double play. They never use defensive plays in metaphors but double plays are obviously important, also triple plays but those don’t happen enough to be a common phrase. I don’t think there is such a thing as a quadruple play but it would be cool though. Anyway this is a cute romantic comedy deal but what makes it worth mentioning is
1) an observant premise that speaks to many people in ways most movies don’t
2) a likable cast, crucial to this kind of crap
III) subtly avoiding some of the usual crap you would expect in this type of movie
In the movie Jimmy Fallon (young guy that would always fuck up and start laughing when he was on Saturday Night Live a couple years back) is a math teacher who asks out yuppie businesswoman Drew Barrymore (girl from E.T. and the Charlie’s Angels dulogy). Jimmy is such a sweetheart that when he shows up for the first date and she’s puking her guts out from food poisoning, he not only nurses her back to health but cleans the bathroom and rents ROADHOUSE for her.
So Drew and her fitness club buddies start to suspect there must be some catch. Not a metaphoric baseball catch but like, something wrong with him. They figure it out when baseball season starts and he turns out to be an obsessive freak about the Boston Red Socks. One of these guys with the season tickets, an entire apartment made out in a Red Soxx theme, goes to spring training to “scout players,” etc. At first she gets into it and tries to learn about baseball. But of course it gets bad, she wants to go to family events and friend’s birthdays, he doesn’t want to miss games, etc. I mean, you ever have a friend invite you to some fuckin social event or other and you know you oughta go but you were already planning to go see the new Bruce Willis movie or whatever? And you gotta weigh your own personal priorities against normal human priorities? That’s what it’s about.
Then suddenly the movie throws you a curveball. Actually that’s not true, it doesn’t throw a curveball. But that is a metaphor that they use in movie reviews alot though. What I would like to see instead of the movie throws a curveball is a shirtless father and son run on the field and attack the third base umpire. But I couldn’t figure out how to work that one into this review. Maybe by the time of Fever Pitch 2 I’ll work it out.
I liked this premise because I think most interesting people have some retarded shit they are into and if you’re gonna be close to them you’re just gonna have to accept it. For example, I’m gonna watch every single god damn Steven Seagal picture that ever comes out, I don’t care how bad it is. And then I’m gonna tell you all the best parts, whether you want to hear it or not. That doesn’t make me cool or uncool, that just makes me Vern.
The movie was made by the Farrelly brothers, who are such huge sports nerds that on KINGPIN they were excited to have “famous” bowlers make cameos. They portray the obsession just right because first of all they know it’s them, and second of all they know it’s still freaky. So even though they obviously relate to this lifestyle they make it clear that it’s just as freaky as the guys who wait in line for STAR WARS or the weirdos in TREKKIES or CINEMANIA or AMERICAN PIMP. It’s a movie for obsessive weirdos and those who love them.
I don’t understand these sports freaks. I went to opening day for the Mariners this season, I had one of these jokers behind me talking about the salaries of each player as they went up. Like anybody should ever know that shit. I bet they don’t even know their own salaries. Plus I got a couple questions for baseball fans. Number one, why do you yell “Easy out, easy out” when the other team hits a pop up fly? Then if your guys catch it you are diminishing their accomplishment, if they don’t catch it you’re making them look like chumps. That is not supportive in my opinion. Number two, what’s this bullshit about “THROW IT BACK! THROW IT BACK!” when the other team hits a ball in the stands? Some poor kid catches the ball, he’s never gonna catch another one in his life and a bunch of fifty year olds got him practically in tears telling him to throw it back. Like it’s some big insult to you that the other team had the fucking nerve to operate under the rules of baseball in order to score a run. How dare they? We can’t let them get away with this. We must punish them with poor sportsmanship.
Anyway what I’m saying is I can’t relate to these freakos, but in the movie I’d rather be hanging out with them than with Drew’s yuppie friends. One side’s obsessed with baseball, the other side with working and working out – both are a waste of time, so take your pick. But the good news is, they don’t make them into bad guys either. You think the friends are gonna think Jimmy’s a loser but they’re actually very supportive. Same thing with her parents. Before you get a chance to wait for Jimmy to have to prove himself to her parents, he’s already done it while she was at work.
I mean honestly I’d rather have KINGPIN but I’m still willing to give the brothers points for subtlety. For example Jim Fallon’s got a filthy sweat-stained hat that he wears to all the games. But not once do they point it out or have him give a speech about it being his lucky hat. Most movies, especially this type of movie, they think they gotta tell you that. This movie treats you with the respect you deserve. You work hard, you pay your dues, you don’t need some asshole explaining shit you already know about sweaty hats.
Most of the Farrelly movies have some asshole friend who gives bad advice, like Chris Elliot in THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY or Jason Alexander in the fat suit movie. In this one all the friends look out for each other, they even help Jimmy take a shower when he’s sad. And not for the wrong reasons I don’t think.
And that might be too much sweetness for some people to take. At this point the Farrelys could bobble the ball or the pitcher could balk. They could walk in the winning home run, who knows. But I think what makes it work, the movie is injected with the steroids of two charismatic lead actors (or players). Their names and reputations may shrink the testacles of critical credibility but they get the job done. I’ve seen some people talk shit about Drew Barrymore every time a new C’s A’s comes out, saying Hollywood tries to shove her down their throats as “hot” but she’s realy not. I think that’s her appeal though, she’s cute but not some supermodel, and she’s so giggly and goofy. She seems very sincere. In this movie, you really believe she loves Jimmy Fallon, just like I really believed she loved Adam Sandler in that movie I LOVE THE ’80S. She really knows how to stare and smile like she has the biggest crush in the world. She’s the Edgar Martinez of romantic comedies. Reliable, even if she has a bum leg. (I don’t know man.)
And I think real life kind of helped out to give the movie an excuse. One of the crucial scenes involves that game where they were down 7 to 0 in the bottom of the ninth and then still won. If we didn’t know it really happened it would be Hollywood bullshit. Same with the very end. In the original script and the Nick Hornby book it was supposedly based on, I guess it’s important that the team always loses. But we all know that last year the Reddies finally won the world championship belt or whatever, so we are able to excuse the phoney hollywood ending where they finally win.
anyway enough about that, I admitted I liked it, what more do you monsters want from me?
afterword: A note about the ending (BIG ASS SPOILER). I was willing to accept that she would be able to run all the way across the field because it was a touching moment and all that crap. But I hate when movies have to put the rest of the world on pause for a romantic speech. No way these security goons would just stand there and wait for closure. I think the scene woulda been more touching and funnier if she just blurted out not to sell the tickets and then got tackled and dragged away. I mean completely knock the spit out of her. That woulda been more of a sacrifice on her part. Maybe some pepper spray in the face too. Always good for laffs. Also it’s been pointed out to me that if you go on the field, you are banned from the stadium for life. So this is actually a brilliant plan on the part of Drew. She is able to declare her love and also avoid going to baseball games ever again. Two birds with one stone. (the game after that is a dream sequence)
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.