Fever Pitch (2005)
Once upon a time, the Brothers Farrelly were known as the masters of gross-out comedy, the juvenile shenanigans in their films offset by a warmth and affection for their bizarre characters. That time seems lost forever now, as Peter and Bobby have done the unthinkable they've officially grown up, and it doesn't really suit them. Instead of the memorably offbeat loonies from Kingpin or There's Something About Mary, we now get bland automatons like the protagonists of Fever Pitch (2005). Jimmy Fallon (the Brad Hall of his generation) stars as a high school math teacher with exactly one attribute he loves the Boston Red Sox. Other than that, he's a perfectly amiable, utterly forgettable fellow. One day, he meets Lindsey Meeks, an accountant of some sort played by Drew Barrymore. That's right: The free-spirited, perky actress tries to stretch her range as a workaholic number-cruncher. It doesn't fly. Sparks ostensibly do, though, and the two embark on a romance set against the backdrop of the Red Sox's 2004 season. Could this ravenous sports junkie really be the guy for her? Here's a hint: His name in Ben Wrightman. There are moments in Fever Pitch that will bring a chuckle from an avid athletic supporter: plugging your ears in a restaurant to avoid hearing the score of a game you've taped off television to watch later, or a friend screaming over a cell phone "You missed the greatest game ever!" But these brief instances do little to liven a mundane storyline. She gets fed up with him, then he gets fed up with her, then the Red Sox improbably manage to win a World Championship for the first time since 1918. That last bit provides the only real frisson in the film, only because we know that it was re-edited to account for this unexpected fact. The Nick Hornby book on which it's based (as well as the 1997 film of it) has soccer as the focus instead of baseball, and it doesn't end with the happy couple dancing on the field after their team has won it all. If you happened to see Barrymore and Fallon cavorting awkwardly amidst the players after Game Four of the World Series in October 2004, this movie is the reason why and it wasn't worth it. The Farrellys have never been known as dashing wordsmiths, but the dialogue here makes Dumb & Dumber seem smart. "You're like a man-boy; half man, half boy." "All the things that you feel for that team I feel for you." Sheesh. On their commentary track, the brothers talk about filming most of this Boston-centric film in Toronto, distribute praise to the cast and crew, and point out the various Red Sox trivia bits. (They also mention that Roger Clemens has 332 wins, which means, for what it's worth, that the track was recorded sometime between June 22 and July 3 of 2005.) Fox's DVD release also includes 13 deleted scenes (19 min. total), including an extended opening set in 1980. There's also a pair of promotional Internet shorts (2 min. each), a gag reel featuring plenty of coughing and burping (6 min.), and a "Making the Scene" featurette describing how the intrusion of Hollywood hokum onto baseball history came to pass. The film is presented in a good anamorphic transfer (2.35:1), and the DD 5.1 audio accurately captures the swell of the music and the crack of the bat. Keep-case.