Release Date:  April 8, 2005
Rating:  PG-13 (for crude and sexual humor, and some sensuality)
Genre:  Comedy/Romance
Run Time:  101 min.
Director:  Bobby & Peter Farrelly
Actors:  Drew Barrymore, Jimmy Fallon, Lenny Clarke, Jack Kehler, James B. Sikking

Oh, the connection between men and sports.  Is there anything more simple – or more complicated?  And why, oh why do we put up with it?

Ever since Ben (“Saturday Night Live” alum Jimmy Fallon) was a kid, he’s watched the Red Sox play, sitting beside his only male role model – his beloved uncle Carl.  Overall, Ben is a really nice guy.  Infatuated with corporate superstar Lindsay (Drew Barrymore), he spends their first date nursing her back to health and cleaning her bathroom, after she comes down with a nasty case of stomach flu.  He’s so thoughtful, he even brushes her dog’s teeth.  For the work-obsessed Lindsay, this definitely makes up for the fact that Ben’s “just” a school teacher.  She’s tired of dating corporate yuppies, anyway.

It’s still winter, however, which means that Lindsay hasn’t discovered the truth about Ben.  Ben’s not just your average baseball fan.  He’s “one of God’s most pathetic preachers – a Red Sox fan.”  Meaning, he is completely and totally obsessed with that team, largely thanks to the dugout season tickets his uncle willed him.  Lindsay’s married friends warn her.  “There’s a reason he’s still single,” they insist, to which Lindsay replies, “Maybe he just hasn’t found the right person.”  “Well,” one quips, “by now he should be with the wrong person.”  Cut to Ben’s apartment, a living homage of Red Sox sheets, pillows, blankets, towels, shower curtain and memorabilia that covers every square inch of wall – except one, painted green and intended to evoke “The Green Monster,” the back wall of Fenway Park.  Ben’s wardrobe also consists largely of Red Sox logo wear.  His toilet paper, however, bears the New York Yankees logo.

Lindsay tries to be game about the game, joining Ben in his coveted seats – to the dismay of his friends, who have become completely subservient in their annual quest for tickets. But soon, Lindsay’s job is suffering, and she is starting to see that Ben’s entire life revolves around the games.   After all, he hasn’t missed a Red Sox game in 23 years, so after missing dates, once-in-a-lifetime trips and even family outings with Lindsay, things start to get tense.  Oh, and did I mention?  It’s the Spring of 2004.  In Boston.  And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, then you need to see this movie – with your boyfriend or husband.  Trust me.  He will be thrilled to tell you all about the Curse of the Bambino and how it was broken, in great detail.  Try and look interested.

Loosely based on the novel by Nick Hornby (“About a Boy”) and directed by the Farrelly brothers (“Dumb and Dumber,” “There’s Something About Mary”), “Fever Pitch” is that rare romantic comedy which men will enjoy as well as women.  It’s not particularly memorable – unless you are a Red Sox fan, which may just be enough for good box office numbers – but it works, for the most part.  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.

Toward the end of the film, Ben confides in an adolescent boy and asks his advice.  In yet another one of the adult/child role reversals so typical of film and television these days, the child – not the adult – is the one with the answers to life’s deepest questions.  “You love the Sox,” he says sagely.  “But do they love you back?” The answer, of course, is no, which leads to Ben’s real dilemma: does he give up the superficial intimacy and community of the baseball stadium for true depth of relationship with the woman of his dreams?  It’s an excellent portrayal of idolatry and its dangers, presented in a clear but entertaining way.

The dialogue in this film is well written and gently funny throughout.  “I eat off of everyone’s plates,” says Lindsay.  “My friends call me the seagull.”  Barrymore gives her usual girl-next-door delivery, while Fallon plays the lovable loser that refuses to grow up.  Both roles are fairly clichéd and, disappointingly, neither actor adds any edge or depth.  Too bad we don’t cast more serious actors in these romantic comedy roles; we might actually get something new.  Then again, at least we don’t have to suffer another film with Ben Stiller.

It’s clear that Ben and Lindsay are involved in a sexual relationship (although there is no nudity), and the couple talks about her possible pregnancy – without any negative repercussions.  There is also a significant amount of sexual innuendo, which makes this film appropriate only for adults.  This is also made clear by the film’s PG-13 rating which, parents should note, is the new Rated R.

With these exceptions, “Fever Pitch” will be appreciated by both sexes for the way that it explores the complex relationship between men, women and sports, and without delving into the usual lies and “misunderstandings” which form the foundation of most romantic comedies.  It’s also got some great scenes from Red Sox games and chronicles last year’s historic World Series Championship.

Overall, a fun and entertaining film with a redeeming message.

AUDIENCE:  Adults only

OBJECTIONABLE CONTENT:

  • Drugs/Alcohol Content:  Man smokes cigar; adolescent asks for a vodka martini; several scenes where characters drink beer; several scenes in bar.
  • Language/Profanity:  About a dozen obscenities and another dozen mild profanities (“Oh my God”).
  • Sexual Content/Nudity:  Adolescent calls woman a “major hottie;” women in workout gear show jiggling cleavage at gym; man undresses sick woman and puts her into pajamas (no nudity); casual reference to pornography; husband jokes about offering his wife’s sexual favors in exchange for baseball tickets, then says he is serious; man says that the “top six best things” about a woman are all related to her anatomy; Man says, “This is getting me hot” as woman wears baseball jacket of his favorite team; unmarried man says that the most important things in life are “baseball, sex and breathing – in that order;” unmarried couple embrace passionately (no nudity) in preparation for sex; woman talks about “you and me going at it all night;” woman tells man she is fearful of being pregnant because she is “late;” character comments, “The sex is great;” man makes toast to his wife on her birthday and comments about “dancing in her panties” (but is rebuked); couple analyzes their recent sexual encounter together, while naked in bed (no nudity); unmarried couple share passionate kiss; man passionately kisses another man’s wife.
  • Violence:  Teacher threatens students with crowbar in joking manner; teaching bops kid on head; woman is accidentally hit by stray baseball during game, but not seriously injured; various scenes with physical humor.