Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Fever Pitch (2005)

Directed By: Bobby and Peter Farrelly
Written By: Babaloo Mandel and Lowell Ganz (are those great names or what?) based it off the Nick Hornby novel.
Starring: Jimmy Fallon, Drew Barrymore, several actors who look vaguely familiar, and Johnny Damon. I am probably one of about seven people who look at that list and go "I bet that'll be good!"
Synopsis: Fallon is obsessed with the Red Sox. Barrymore is obsessed with her work. Hijinks ensue.

I write this review as a Red Sox fan. I make no apologies for this, and here's why: upon checking the IMDB boards about this movie, I discovered a number of Yankees fans griping about the film, which they have not seen yet and have no plans to see it anytime in the future. The overall feeling you get from the post is that of sour grapes - you guys already won the series, how come you get to have this romantic comedy about it, too? That's right, the Yankees fans are jealous. They're jealous 'cause we have it all.

Amazing how the tables turn, eh? When was the last time that you saw a romantic comedy that didn't take place in New York? They all do. They all feature opening sequences of helicopter shots of Manhattan with some cheerful Harry Connick Jr. song playing while the main titles flash by. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in You've Got Mail. Sandra Bullock and Bill Pullman in While You Were Sleeping.* Robert De Niro and Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver. The list goes on.

Fever Pitch starts out with scenic shots of Beantown, but instead of some wandering Randy Newman song, it's "Dirty Water" by the Standells. "I'm gonna tell you a big, bad story, baby," croons Dick Dodd with lecherous vocals. "Aw, it's all about my town." And it is. The Farrelly brothers (Dumb and Dumber, There's Something About Mary, Stuck on You, etc.), grew up as Red Sox fans, and Fever Pitch is as much a sappy Valentine to Sox fans as it is a romantic comedy. It features cameos by Jim Rice, Dennis Eckerseley, Jason Varitek, Johnny Damon, Kevin Millar, etc. It even features Jessamy Finet, one of the fans from last year's Still We Believe Red Sox documentary as one of Fallon's Fenway family. Barrymore and Fallon join in as all the fans sing along to Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline." There's even the Dropkick Murphy's anthem "Tessie," their cover of an old Broadway tune that helped rally the 1903 Boston Pilgrims, and became a rallying cry for Red Sox Nation. It seems a bit of fitting, post-championship exuberance, a celebration of all things Red Sox.

And at the center of it is Fallon, surprisingly solid in his first real major studio release (let's all ignore Taxi, shall we?). The story goes like this: Fallon, an obsessed Red Sox fan, has a pair of season-tickets, just behind the Red Sox dugout, bequeathed to him by his late uncle. He's attended every home game in that seat for the past eleven years. He has a framed print of Tony Conigliaro that he crosses himself in front of every morning. Nothing comes between him and his Red Sox. And then one day, he meets Barrymore, successful, driven executive who has no idea what she's getting into.

I'll leave it there, so I won't ruin whatever suprise the ending might have for you - it's a romantic comedy, after all - but I will say this: if you have any love for the Red Sox at all, go see this movie. It's everything you love about Boston, the Red Sox, being a Sox fan, and beating the Yankees, all rolled up into one beautiful hour and half love story. And then there's that other love story that's going on, too.

Critics will rip this movie to pieces - after all, half of them live in New York, and the other half pretend they do. Let them. They hate this movie for reasons they cannot understand, because this movie perfectly encapsulates that sense of wonder that Red Sox Nation feels. They'll rip into Fallon and Barrymore's performances, they'll rant about how the Farrelly brothers have lost their touch (because of course, they were such fans back when they were making Dumb and Dumber), they'll call it mediocre and predictable and trite and unfunny. And it's all because for once - they want what we've got. Doesn't it feel good?

Rating: Separating myself from my Sox affections, the film's a better-than-average romantic comedy - but not much better. It gets to take the advanced math classes but it cheats off the girl who sits in front. It's not the Farrelly brother's best piece of work, but it's their deepest. I mean, name one earlier Farrelly work that has character development. I thought so.

An astute reader later noted that While You Were Sleeping actually takes place in Chicago. I watched the film a few months later, and realized how obvious that is. A lot of the film revolves around an "L" train. Everyone knows New York doesn't have an "L" train. Otherwise, it would have been in a romantic comedy by now. Ironically, I did research Taxi Driver to make sure that it was in New York, but I don't think anyone noticed that Taxi Driver is quite obviously not a romantic comedy. Taxi Driver is that Scorsese film where De Niro is a mentally unstable Vietnam vet, the one that John Hinckley blamed after he shot Reagan because he said Jodie Foster made him do it after he watched the flick fifteen times... nothing? No recollection at all? Oh, never mind.


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