Directors Bobby and Peter Farrelly have helmed some disgusting and offensive movies (Kingpin; Me, Myself, and Irene; and There's Something about Mary), so in the case of Fever Pitch, the duo's latest endeavor, audiences may be surprised to find that the Farrelly brothers keep their gross-out antics to a minimum in exchange for a successful romantic comedy about a boy, a girl, and a baseball team.
Fever Pitch is loosely based on a story by author Nick Hornby (who also wrote the novel that inspired Hugh Grant's 2002 film, About a Boy). In Hornby's original, the main character is obsessed with soccer, but in Fever Pitch, the sport changes to baseball—and Ben Wrightman (Jimmy Fallon), a man obsessed with the Boston Red Sox. When asked to place his life's priorities in order, Ben replies, "Red Sox … sex … and breathing!"
Ben's love for the Sox began one childhood day on a trip to Fenway Park with Uncle Carl, who introduced 8-year-old Ben (played by Jason Spevack, possibly the cutest child actor around) to the hometown team. But Uncle Carl, well aware of the miserable Sox history, warned, "Careful, kid. They'll break your heart." Even the narrator says Red Sox fans are in a league of their own as "one of God's most pathetic creatures." But, that doesn't stop loyal Sox fans from showing up at the park year after year in hopes of a championship.
For the most part, the world is right with Ben (minus the Curse of the Bambino). His apartment looks like a Red Sox gift shop, he inherited his Uncle Carl's season tickets, and Opening Day is just weeks away. Then, Ben takes some of his promising math students on a field trip and meets Lindsey Meeks (the ever-adorable Drew Barrymore), a "numbers" career woman with killer looks. Ben, taking flak from his students about being out of Lindsey's league, decides to take a chance and ask her out. At first, Lindsey says no. But after reflecting on what she really wants out of life—perhaps more than a 90-hour work week—she decides to take a chance on Ben. And, thus begins the strange, yet endearing, courtship between the two main characters. Throw in the Sox and the movie takes on its own version of a twisted love triangle.
Despite the fact that I'm a Yankees fan (and watching this film made me relive some nightmarish memories), the film works as a romantic comedy. Barrymore and Fallon have loads of chemistry. They seem comfortable working together and they portray their characters with sincerity. Maybe it's because Ben and Lindsey are not caricatures. As it stands, we probably all know someone with an "unhealthy" obsession with sports—or work or a hobby or any of a variety of possible addictions. We probably also understand how that obsession has hindered and interfered with relationships. Compared to the romantic comedy Maid in Manhattan, in which Jennifer Lopez—a cleaning woman at a New York hotel—falls for a rich guy, Fever Pitch just feels more comfortable and accessible.
Though Ben and Lindsey hop in the sack a bit too quickly, there's no denying that they care for each other. After their first date, Lindsey, suffering from food poisoning, spends the evening vomiting. Ben cleans up the mess . . . and expects nothing in return. He simply wants to serve Lindsey the best he can—putting her to bed, buying her Gatorade, placing a wastebasket next to the bed, sterilizing her bathroom, and brushing her dog's teeth (um, don't ask). For a light-hearted romantic comedy, there are a number of genuinely touching moments of love.
While I wouldn't recommend this film for younger teens, I can recommend it to more mature viewers looking for an option on a date night or a movie group. Fever Pitch would also make a nice rental down the road.Discussion starters
- Do you have an obsession? Can you relate to Ben's love for the Sox? Can you relate to Lindsey's commitment to her job? How can we better manage our time? What do our priorities say about our lives?
- Ben and Lindsey talk openly about their sex lives. How do you feel about that? Is their sexual relationship OK because of their feelings for each other? What would the Bible say?
- Ben's family members have passed on, but Ben considers his fellow season ticket-holders his "summer family." How important is Ben's summer family to him? Are there people that you consider "family" that are not blood relatives? Who are those people and what makes them family to you?
The Family CornerFor parents to consider
Fever Pitch is rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor and some sensuality. Ben and Lindsey make it clear that their sex life (out of wedlock) is very important. Certain scenes portray sexual encounters. At one point, Lindsey thinks she's pregnant, setting off a series of adult situations and ideas (wanting kids, choosing a spouse, etc.) that would be difficult for young teens to understand. There's a scene in which Lindsey vomits off-screen; the sound effects are horrendous. In another scene, Lindsey and her friends work out at a gym; clothing is scant and the cleavage ample.
Photos Copyright © 20th Century Foxcompiled by Jeffrey Overstreet
from Film Forum, 04/14/05
While Sahara earns unflattering terms from the dictionary of desert terminology, Fever Pitch, the new romantic comedy starring Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore, sends critics scrambling for some complimentary lingo from the baseball's lexicon.
Based rather loosely on the novel by Nick Hornby, who also wrote High Fidelity, the Farrelly Brothers' new film finds them keeping their typically crass humor in the dugout (see how easy it is?) and bringing something more pleasant to the plate. (You too can write like a film critic!)
The film follows two obsessed baseball fans, Ben and Lindsey, who follow the Red Sox to the World Series. (Apparently, the Red Sox season took such an unexpected turn, the script was revised to include the sensational events.)
"Barrymore and Fallon have loads of chemistry," says Mary Lasse (Christianity Today Movies). "They seem comfortable working together and they portray their characters with sincerity. Maybe it's because Ben and Lindsey are not caricatures. We probably all know someone with an 'unhealthy' obsession with sports—or work or a hobby or any of a variety of possible addictions. We probably also understand how that obsession has hindered and interfered with relationships. Though Ben and Lindsey hop in the sack a bit too quickly, there's no denying that they care for each other. While I wouldn't recommend this film for younger teens, I can recommend it to more mature viewers looking for an option on a date night or a movie group."
David Dicerto (Catholic News Service) calls it a "sweet and funny romantic comedy. Unfortunately … the courtship in Fever Pitch involves a premarital living arrangement, precluding an unqualified thumbs-up. But apart from that, [the Farrellys] have hit a home run. [The movie] imparts an admirable message about how love demands both acceptance and sacrifice. Hopeless romantics and baseball enthusiasts will undoubtedly be entertained, but even those who think a 'stolen base' is a felony will find themselves cheering by the end, New York Yankees fans excepted."
But Kenneth R. Morefield (Christian Spotlight) is greatly dismayed at how the film has screwed up its source material. In fact, he argues that the wise conclusion in a 1997 version of the film is reversed in this adaptation. "I could spend three reviews writing about how and why the new Fever Pitch is inferior to the 1997 version starring Colin Firth or the 1994 semi-autobiographical novel by Nick Hornby and never get around to providing solid information about this film for the benefit of the uninitiated. So let me start by saying if you are not a Firth fan, a Hornby fan, a Yankees fan, or an intelligent movie fan, you probably won't be disappointed by this watered-down version of a pretty good story. You may even be entertained by it; I know I would have been, if I could have stopped counting the ways it should have been better."
Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) isn't entirely impressed. "Fever Pitch is not so much about sports as it is about love and what we should be willing to change or accept in order to keep a loving relationship in working condition. Unfortunately … Jimmy Fallon's Ben is too much of an immature dweeb to convince us that an upscale professional like Drew's Lindsey would stick around long enough to get to know the man behind the nerd."
Tom Neven (Plugged In) disagrees: "Ben is a real gentleman, and it feels perfectly natural that Lindsey falls for his goofy authenticity." But he adds, "Viewers getting the positive lesson about mutual sacrifice in a relationship also get the message that premarital sex is to be taken for granted. That and some crude sexual joking and profanity ultimately send this film to the wide side of the foul pole."
Annabelle Robertson (Crosswalk) says it's "not particularly memorable," but observes that it's a "rare romantic comedy which men will enjoy as well as women. The best thing about the film is that it reveals the fanatical role sports can play in a man's (and sometimes a woman's) life, and how a healthy pastime, when taken to extremes, can destroy intimacy and wreak havoc with our relationships."
Most mainstream critics are pleased, if not enthusiastic.
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