(PG-13) 3.5 StarsEd Johnson-Ott
Fever Pitch is a pleasant romantic comedy and there's nothing wrong with that. Unfortunately, the film is drawing brickbats in some early reviews for what it isn't. Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon in 'Fever Pitch.'
For example, Fever Pitch isn't a faithful adaptation of the popular memoir by Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About a Boy). Hornby wrote about his passion/obsession for all things related to football (soccer to us Yanks) while the film's screenplay, by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, focuses on one fanatic's devotion with Boston Red Sox baseball (those longing for a more faithful adaptation should check out the 1997 film starring Colin Firth).
Despite being directed by Peter and Bobby Farrelly (There's Something about Mary), Fever Pitch doesn't push the limits of taste. Aside from a series of vomit jokes, the film is a gentle comedy. Expect to laugh a little and chuckle a lot. Again, this is a pleasant romantic comedy, not a hilarious one.
Finally, Fever Pitch is not an Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore movie. Those eager to see the Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates costars reunited will have to wait. Sandler has been busy with projects like the upcoming prison football (the American kind) remake The Longest Yard, leaving Saturday Night Live veteran Jimmy Fallon a chance to step into the spotlight.
In his brief film career (Taxi), Fallon has offered ... um, nothing. He is jittery, as if he expects to be jumped at any moment, and his line readings often sound tentative. Aside from that, he is simply bland. Luckily, his ordinary-ness and his jittery nature fit his Fever Pitch character perfectly.
Drew Barrymore, meanwhile, continues to show an uncanny ability to pick minor movies that prove to be perfect for her. Her character is a bit more mature than those in her previous films, while retaining that post-hippie bubbly quality that makes her so appealing.
She plays Lindsey Meeks, a workaholic business consultant whose career is going like gangbusters. Her romantic life has been far less successful, but wait, that may be about to change when she meets Ben Wrightman (Fallon) and his students on a field trip. Sure, as a teacher, Ben is below Lindsey on the socio-economic food chain, but he's charming in a jittery way and a genuinely good educator to boot.
And so she begins dating the man, unaware that the sweetheart she is enamored with, Winter Ben, will soon be replaced for several months by Summer Ben, the full-fledged Red Sox obsessive. Ben's most cherished memories are of attending games as a boy with his beloved late Uncle Carl (Lenny Clarke). Uncle Carl left his primo season tickets to Ben and the schoolteacher has spent his life displaying his reverence/fanaticism to the team, from his perfect attendance at Fenway Park to his bedroom, which looks like a hijacked Red Sox gift shop.
Can Lindsey have a successful relationship with Ben in a relationship where the third party is not a woman, but a tradition? Well of course you know the answer, but how nice it is to see how they get there. Fever Pitch takes place in the real world and the Farrellys keep their characters and situations real enough to pass muster.
In addition to the Lindsey/Ben relationship, the film offers other treats. Ben's family-like relationship with his Red Sox bleacher neighbors is beguiling. Also enjoyable are the exchanges between Lindsey and her pals, a more defined group of friends than you normally see in a romantic comedy. And kudos to the Farrelly boys for acknowledging the American class system and for continuing to routinely include people with physical and/or mental limitations in their movies.
So there you go. Fever Pitch is a pleasant romantic comedy. You got a problem with pleasant?