The Farrelly brothers lucked out when they made “Fever Pitch.” They chose last season to make a movie about a man with a fanatical obsession with the Boston Red Sox, not knowing when they began filming that by October the team would have finally conquered the 86-year Curse of the Bambino. They were even able, through some divine will, to shoot the film’s finale during Game 4 of the World Series.
Unfortunately, the greatest comeback in sports history isn’t nearly enough to rescue this schlock-fest of a film. A romantic comedy based on Nick’s Hornby’s autobiographical book of the same name (but about British soccer), “Fever Pitch” is neither notably romantic nor particularly comedic. A dull script and lackluster performances by the film’s famous leads make “Pitch” a movie that a sad few are likely to enjoy. Maybe diehard Sox fans looking to relive the glory of last fall will enjoy it — provided that their passion for the team is great enough to sustain them during long and mediocre scenes when the camera isn’t on Johnny Damon.
The film doesn’t deviate even slightly from the well-established romantic comedy plot arc. Ben (Jimmy Fallon, coasting on his usual lovable nerd persona) is a math teacher. He meets successful corporate go-getter Lindsey (Drew Barrymore) on a field trip to her company, and falls for her on first sight — just like in real life! Ben woos Lindsey, Lindsey overcomes her initial resistance to the idea of dating a “schoolteacher,” and soon the two are a pair. The next few months of their movie lives are predictably blissful: Lindsey’s friends love Ben, Lindsey’s family loves Ben, even Lindsey’s dog loves Ben. There are walks in the park, winter cookouts and plenty of cuddling on couches.
But then comes opening day of baseball season, and suddenly his dark secret rears its ugly head: Ben is a big Red Sox fan. At first, Lindsey naively thinks she can handle his quirky little eccentricity, but as her boyfriend passes up dinner with her parents (not to mention a weekend to Paris) in order to dutifully attend every single Sox home game, Lindsey realizes that his love for the Sox is closer to obsession. But one must wonder why this comes as such a surprise, especially after nights in Ben’s memorabilia-filled shrine of an apartment.
Lindsey begins to question how much she’s willing to invest in a relationship with a man who’s tethered to Fenway Park. When she voices her concern to Ben, he in turn is left to wonder if he is willing to give up a 23-year-old passion (not to mention season tickets behind the dugout) for a woman he has known for 11 months.
Given such a frivolous plot, one would hope that the usually amusing Farrelly brothers — “There’s Something About Mary” was a gem, after all — could instill enough wit and absurdity to keep us amused, or at least provide a strong arsenal of physical gags.
But this tepid romantic comedy doesn’t even live up to “Shallow Hal.” Nary a memorable one-line zinger materializes; the Farrelly brothers focus so much on making Ben and Lindsey (or, rather, Jimmy and Drew) into an adorable couple that humor falls by the wayside. But neither boy nor girl is particularly enthralling, their performances are painfully uninspired, and their chemistry is virtually nonexistent.
The film’s complete lack of intelligence, originality, charisma and humor doesn’t leave it much to fall back on. The Farrelly brothers make a few feeble attempts at psychological introspection, but Fallon simply doesn’t possess the emotional range to convey a man at a major turning point in his life. When he bursts into tears, we burst into laughter. If there is anything salvageable in this flimsy film, it is the spirit of the Red Sox nation, captured in the background of Ben and Lindsey’s unconvincing romance.
But even this documentation is cursory, and generally limited to scattered shots of extras painted in Red Sox colors, decked out in gift-shop apparel. To say the least, it’s nowhere near enough to redeem the film. The Red Sox may have done great things last season, but the Farrelly brothers did not.