Fever Pitch (2005) Review
The Farrelly brothers are losing touch. After hitting us with the likeable schmaltz that was Shallow Hall and Stuck On You, there was a sense that something was still missing. The Farrelly’s will be remembered for Cameron Diaz’s hair gel, Ben Stiller’s unfortunate run-in with his own zipper, and introducing the world to Jim Carrey. In a sense – loud, slapstick, silly, toilet humour with unfortunate physical gags a-plenty and Ernie McCracken’s hair. Why then make Fever Pitch - another Hollywood remake and another very straightforward romance that breathes about as much life into the genre as Roy Munson’s prosthetic hand. In their ongoing endeavour to be treated as serious filmmakers (was Osmosis Jones an experiment or pretentious over-ambition), the Farrelly brothers have forgotten about their niche and seemingly their audience, to produce generic pulp only good for more cameos and bit-parts for their friends and relatives.
Ben Wrightman (Jimmy Fallon) is a school teacher and avid Boston Red Sox fan. Lynsey (Drew Barrymore), his new girlfriend, is about to find out just how big a fan Ben is. After taking some of his students to Lynsey’s place of work, Ben feels the need to ask for her number after one of the little brats says he isn’t in her league. Well, one thing leads to another and they get together but it’s during baseball’s winter break, so as the romance blossoms and summer approaches will Ben’s devotion to the team come between him and his girl?
Fever Pitch is a Hollywood remake of the 1997 British original of the same name, based on a book by Nick Hornby. The major difference is the change in sport for the main character’s obsession – football becomes baseball; however, there’s another important difference and it has nothing to do with the sport. The problem is, unlike the original, the Farrelly’s have failed to bring any semblance of the book’s critical social humour to the film. Forgivable is the difficult transition from working-class U.K football terraces to middle-class American baseball bleaches, but there’s a distinct sense that it’s a problem they walked themselves into. For one thing, Bull Durham and The Sandlot for example, showed us baseball was a lot more than replica jerseys and schedules, but the Farrelly’s seem only too happy to preach privileged, yuppie whining that will no doubt infuriate most whilst alienating everyone else. Ben’s ‘obsession’ with the sport is more a hobby to divert him away from his working life and has little depth beyond that. The Farrelly’s use of flashback is a heavy-handed way of telling us – the sport is Ben’s life, but they’re shouting at an audience that’s pleading ‘yes we believe you, now tell us something we didn’t know!’ Ben’s room is filled with Red Sox memorabilia, much like a twelve-year whose just discovered masturbation, but it’s an overt way of telling us about his character. The filmmakers have shown us in their previous efforts that being excessive can be funny, but here subtlety is key and they fail miserably.
Having said that, there could have been an interesting dynamic between Lynsey’s workaholic and Ben’s fascination with baseball but it falls flat largely due to Fallon and Barrymore failing to spark any chemistry. It’s unfortunate that Fallon doesn’t have the charisma to take a lead role in a film, but it’s probably more of a problem that he simply isn’t funny. Drew Barrymore on the other hand is capable of holding her own but it’s as if she’s rather bored, and realises that Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel’s script is perhaps their worst collaboration to date, despite a couple of standout comedic moments. The film plods along predictably to its sentimental conclusion that will no doubt hurt Yankees fans, whilst the rest of us will already be heading to the disabled list after having to endure this painful experience.
The film is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and anamorphic enhanced. Despite the image looking a little soft throughout, Fox have reproduced the autumnal colours with a rich texture providing the film with a warm Boston flavour. The print lacks any noticeable grain or defects.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is as warm and rich as the cinematography, creating an enveloping ambience especially during the game scenes and when the surround speakers fill with music, crowd chants and game sounds. Dialogue is well-separated and nicely spaced, and the track contains some good use of the bass channel.
The DVD is filled with the kind of useless additional features that make you wish some of the effort making them could have been better directed towards worthy films released on bare-bones disks. We begin with the Farrelly brothers’ commentary which is exactly like all their others. They are good speakers and talk with great enthusiasm, hardly boring the viewer, but they go off on wayward tangents that don’t mean anything beyond a select group of people and like to point out their casting choices which become rather uninteresting the five-hundredth time. The two-minute Love triangle featurette is simple film promotion through and through with Drew Barrymore explaining to camera how excited she is about the film. It’s rather funny as she briefly talks about the film as if were some sort of romantic rival to When Harry Met Sally or Annie Hall - yes Drew I’m sure you’re as excited about Fever Pitch as you were for Donnie Darko - Get real! Another two minute featurette entitled Break The Curse will no doubt annoy Yankees fans in its celebration of Boston’s World Series triumph at the expense of New York. Reminding any Yankees fan that they were 3-0 up in the American League Championship Series only to throw it away to their most hated rivals won’t go down to well, and the same will go for anyone not interested in the sport itself. Making a Scene was originally shown on the Fox Movie Channel and basically charts the making-of the film in eight short minutes. There are some interesting anecdotes here but it’s basically self-promotion and back-patting, as per usual. 13 Deleted Scenes and a Gag Reel are also present on the disk but there’s very little of interest, whilst a Theatrical Trailer, some recommendations for other Farrelly films, as well as a look at upcoming Fox films round out the additional features. Overall, there’s quantity but no quality – a set of extras as hollow as the film.
There’s very little to recommend about Fever Pitch which is undoubtedly the worst thing the Farrelly’s have done. Fallon and Barrymore have no chemistry and Fallon’s brand of humour is such an acquired taste you have to wonder if his market is simply too small for him to take a lead on film. The Farrelly Brothers themselves have moved away from the gross-out eccentricities that made their name, and very little of their trademark is evident in this bland, hollow excuse for a romantic-comedy. My advice is go back and watch Kingpin or Dumb and Dumber - that’s both to audiences wanting to watch funny comedies and the Farrelly’s who need to remind themselves just what made them good.