Say It Ain’t So, Joe!

by Aaron on April 8, 2005

in Movie Reviews 

Barring decent returns drawn in by Barrymore’s rom-com track record, Fever Pitch should go a long way in convincing higher-ups to keep Jimmy Fallon on SNL, where his delivery and love of laughing at his own jokes can serve to distract the audience from wooden performance of that week’s guest star.  Unless your need for a sports flavored romantic comedy can’t be sated by a quick rental of Bull Durham, I’d advise you give Fever Pitch a pass and just pick up endlessly more entertaining About a Boy or High Fidelity. 

Fever Pitch
2 & 1/2 Stars

It’s difficult to judge a film solely on it’s own merits when you’re dealing with a re-make of film based on popular book.  Especially so when you’re fond and familiar of the source material.  That being said, I made every effort to view the Farrelly Bros. newest Fever Pitch unfettered by my thoughts on the either Nick Hornby’s book or the 1997 Colin Firth vehicle based off the same, but even removed from it’s source this romantic comedy still manages to strike out at every opportunity.

Ben (Jimmy Fallon, once again failing to convince America to believe he’s as funny as he thinks he is) is a lifelong Red Sox Fan, with a beyond obsessive devotion to the (until 2004) long disappointing team.  Lindsey (Drew Barrymore, who somehow manages to be awkward and charming at the same time) is a high-powered, job obsessed number cruncher who makes room in her heart for Ben, only to realize that his love of the Red Sox leaves little room for her in his.  Hilarity and true love inevitably ensue, as contractually obligated.

And that’s it, really.  Gone are the moments from Hornby’s autobiographical novel which underscore how a man’s obsession with a sports club can both define and control his life to the exclusion of all else.  And with their recent World Series win (which prompted some hasty re-writes, I’m sure), The Red Sox don’t provide the Farrelly Brothers with a team that delivers the bitter disappointment and love/hate relationship that comes with backing a perennially losing team, and how that disappointment bleeds into every aspect of the obsessive fan’s life.  By shifting the plot’s focus to fit a traditional romantic comedy genre the guts are taken right out of those aspects which made the material movie-worthy in the first place.  Further injustice is done by removing the first person viewpoint that made High Fidelity and About a Boy so compelling and engaging.  By widening the cast there’s no room to hone in on Ben and truly explore the impact and implications of his obsession.

Though to be honest, when your main star is Jimmy Fallon, perhaps the wisest move is to pull back as far as possible.  Sadly cameras aren’t capable of operating far enough back to showcase Fallon as anything other than a self-amused and unfunny clown.  Erasing any fond memories of his turn as sleazebag manager Dennis Hope in Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous, Fallon delivers every line like it’s the 100th take read straight from a teleprompter, to the point where his ‘spontaneous’ jokes come across like the ramblings of a delusional who’s oblivious to the world around him.  His work is not helped by the seemingly random turns his character takes, which are presented with no context to help make sense of them.  Nearly every one of Ben’s big decisions are made off-screen, leaving the viewer to wonder what the point of this movie is in the first place.

Drew Barrymore fares better as Ben’s love interest, but like Fallon she’s not given enough material that could give her character any more depth or interest.  She’s just there as a plot device, and not a particularly compelling one at that.  Outside of a fever-haze first date in which Ben gets his caregiver on, there’s no exploration of why these two people are together in the first place, let alone why they care enough about each other enough to accept their place alongside each of their respective obsessions.  She’s further saddled with the responsibility of providing the film’s “big moment”, an act which would in reality destroy every single one of her career aspirations.  Oddly enough, most of the actual character work is done by her character’s Sex & the City cut-out circle of friends, with nearly every revelation about Ben and Lindsey delivered by the status and fitness obsessed Greek chorus.

Had the film included a Steve Buscemi or Rob Schneider cameo, I’d have been more inclined to believe this was one of Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison productions than a film from the usually entertaining Farrelly Brothers who, for all their lowbrow sensibilities and visual gags, have consistently delivered stories with enough of an emotional core to make the experience worthwhile.  Of course, the Brothers Farrelly also have a gift for casting leads who can perfectly embody their characters; a gift that either deserted them for this go-round, or simply couldn’t fight the combination of a weak script and an actor who seems to enjoy his own performances more than the audience or his co-stars.

Barring decent returns drawn in by Barrymore’s rom-com track record, Fever Pitch should go a long way in convincing higher-ups to keep Jimmy Fallon on SNL, where his delivery and love of laughing at his own jokes can serve to distract the audience from wooden performance of that week’s guest star.  Unless your need for a sports flavored romantic comedy can’t be sated by a quick rental of Bull Durham, I’d advise you give Fever Pitch a pass and just pick up endlessly more entertaining About a Boy or High Fidelity. 

Barring decent returns drawn in by Barrymore’s rom-com track record, Fever Pitch should go a long way in convincing higher-ups to keep Jimmy Fallon on SNL, where his delivery and love of laughing at his own jokes can serve to distract the audience from wooden performance of that week’s guest star.  Unless your need for a sports flavored romantic comedy can’t be sated by a quick rental of Bull Durham, I’d advise you give Fever Pitch a pass and just pick up endlessly more entertaining About a Boy or High Fidelity. 

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