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"Fever Pitch" Review


Title: Fever Pitch

Starring: Drew Barrymore, Jimmy Fallon, Lenny Clarke, Jack Kehler, James B. Sikking

Written by: Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel

Directed by: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly

Rating: PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, and some sensuality.

Review by Stephen Silver

Can the historic 2004 Boston Red Sox season translate into cinematic success, in the form of a romantic comedy? Can the British soccer novel by Nick Hornby, already made as a movie in 1997, translate to America's national pastime? And can the very questionable Jimmy Fallon work as a leading man? The answer to all three, in "Fever Pitch," is an unqualified yes.

The film is a successful combination of three distinct comedic sensibilities that have all been very successful in the past: that of novelist Hornby ("High Fidelity," "About a Boy); co-directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly ("There's Something About Mary"), and the screenwriting team of Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel ("Parenthood," "City Slickers.") "Fever Pitch" works because it takes the best elements of all, and combines them with a faithful retelling of the greatest real-life sports story of the past 25 years.

The plot concerns Ben (Fallon), a young teacher in Boston,who is a typical Hornby hero- rather than obsessed with music like his "High Fidelity" protagonist, Ben lives and breathes the Boston Red Sox. His romance with hard-charging career girl Lindsay (Drew Barrymore) follows the typical Farrelly formula of nerd-gets-pretty-girl-despite-unfortunate-physical-comedy, until Ben's Red Sox obsession starts to get in the way. The ending should come as no surprise to anyone who has either seen a romantic before, or watched last year's World Series (more on that below).

The film's biggest risk, by far, was the casting of Fallon. A once-promising "Saturday Night Live" player, Fallon ruined countless sketches in his later years on the show with his annoying habit of breaking into laughter on almost every show. Then, his first film project, "Taxi," was a misbegotten bust. The film then got a second strike when, filming on the fly as real-life events forced a new ending, Fox cameras caught Fallon and Barrymore celebrating on the field in St. Louis when the Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years- which ruined the moment, and the film, for many outraged Sox fans, led by ESPN.com columnist Bill Simmons.

Therefore, it's somewhat of a surprise that neither problem sinks the film. Fallon is a pleasant surprise- his awkwardness is just right for the role, and he actually shows some of the comedic chops he brought to his early SNL career. And while the St. Louis footage is a distraction, it's ultimately a footnote in the film. Besides- Simmons should be placated just by virtue- James B. Sikking, who played Mr. Walsh on his beloved '90210,' showing up in a bit part as Barrymore's father- part of a strong supporting cast that also includes "Sex and the City"'s Willie Garson, and long-forgotten "Say Anything" actress Ione Skye.

Like "Jerry Maguire," "Fever Pitch" is a clearly calculated pitch at romance-loving females and their sports-loving boyfriends. And like 'Maguire,' 'Pitch' reaches far beyond cheap gimmickry- in both its romantic scenes, and in moments involving the friends, the film hits just about no false notes. Well, except for one- while "Fever Pitch" is totally faithful to specific moments of the 2004 Red Sox season in almost every other way, I personally have no recollection of a woman running across the Fenway Park field during the 9th inning of ALCS Game 4. How'd I miss that?

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