Romance, baseball, the romance of baseball, “Fever Pitch” has it all. Who could have imagined that this romantic comedy was directed by the same team who brought us “Something About Mary” and “Dumb and Dumber”?
Jimmy Fallon plays Ben, a math teacher who happens to meet Drew Barrymore’s Lindsay during a school field trip to her office, where she’s a career driven business consultant. The chemistry is there, but each is hesitant because the other might be “out of their league.” The ensuing courtship carries them through fall and winter and everything seems perfect… until spring training.
It seems that Ben is a rabid Boston Red Sox fan. Baseball is a religion for him, and he has loyally followed his team, “Curse of the Bambino” and all, since the day 23 years ago his uncle took him to his first game at Fenway. He’s even inherited his uncle’s season tickets, with enviable seats behind the dugout. While Lindsay has an inkling of this fixation after visiting the Sox shrine that is Ben’s apartment, she’s not prepared for Ben’s social inflexibility when it comes to the home game schedule.
At the core of the film are two people with separate passions find passion in each other. Now, the strategy in most romantic comedies is that one person ends up relinquishing most of their pre-relationship identity to complete the romance circuit — usually, it seems to be the guy that gets the short end of the stick. But in “Fever Pitch,” Lindsay is refreshingly accepting of Ben’s obsession, because she has her own passion to nurture (that doesn’t involve hooking the right guy into marriage).
While the film gets off to a slow start (much like a Red Sox season) and hits a few dry spells, there’s a charm that grows on you. The Sox’s unexpected World Series victory during the making of the film required a drastic, last minute change to the ending, but it actually makes for a better film. The Farrelly brothers’ approach to filmmaking continues to mellow as they move further into middle age (Peter is 49, Bobby is 47). Mostly gone are their trademark gross outs and sophomoric humor. The absence is definitely felt, but what that has been replaced by is a sentimentality that enriches their characters.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. There are certainly legions of young directors who have been schooled in the “Kingpin” and “Me, Myself and Irene” college of over-the-top comedy who will gladly move into the territory their heroes are departing from. For studio executives, it will only require a shift in marketing strategy. It should be interesting to see where the brothers Farrelly head next.