Have the Farrelly brothers gotten soft and cuddly? After pushing the envelope with “There’s Something About Mary” (a popular albeit sophomoric comedy about a guy who’s never stopped loving the girl he took to the senior prom) and presiding over “Stuck On You” (a one-joke movie about conjoined twins), they’ve given us “Fever Pitch.” This is a PG-13 job whose principal claim to novelty is that the ordinary conventions of the genreâ€“that the couple have to be kept apart until the endâ€“are ignored in favor of a toe-to-toe, blissful combination. Almost, that is, because they’re pretty much together until a split toward the conclusion of the story: both hearts are broken for a time being, but the inevitable feel-good ending has us leaving the theater with smiles on our lips.
This is not necessary a good thing: one wonders whether the Farrelly’s should have stuck to directing what they know bestâ€“comedies with an edge, however vulgar. This time around not even your Aunt Millie in Peoria would frown: shortly after Ben (Jimmy Fallon) shows up for his first date with Lindsay, the latter tries to call it off at her apartment because of illness. She throws up in the bathroom, her dog going after the big chunks. Unfortunately the bathroom scene occurs off screen.
“Fever Pitch” was filmed largely in Toronto with the one exception that a good deal of the action takes place in Boston’s historic Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, who last year won the World Series for the first time in 86 years. Fans of the Sox blame the losing streak on the Red Sox horrendous decision to sell The Bambino, Babe Ruth, to the Yankees. Yuk, the Curse.
The movie, based on Nick Hornby’s novel, adapted for the screen by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, is about two people who are obsessed. Lindsey, who has a high-power job with her own office and an assistant, is determined to win a promotion. She hangs out with a trio of friends who discuss one another’s romances. Ben, who teaches 9th grade math and coaches the JV baseball team, seems an excellent model for the kids based on the shots we get in his classroom. His obsession is the Boston Red Sox. He inherited a lifetime season’s pass near the dugout at Fenway from his uncle. When the ninth inning is concluded, the game is never over, as his apartment is loaded from floor to ceiling with Sox memorabilia.
The Farrellys give us nothing here that we couldn’t find on a good TV comedy, but the movie works because of the quirky relationship between two delightful performers, Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallonâ€“both of whom are thirty years old in real life, though Fallon look about five years older. Romantic comedies often end with a dramatic scene, in this case one which features Ms. Barrymore’s running from her seat in centerfield across the length of Fenway Park to stop her man from making a decision that he’d probably regret for a lifetime. The production notes tell us that no trick photography was involved, that the Farrellys actually did get the cooperation of the 37,000 fans during a game to allow for the sprint to her true love. Anyone watching the final out of the World Series saw Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore run out on to the field.
You don’t have to be a Sox fan or even obsessed by baseball, but if you’re a New Englander like the Farrellys, you’ll get an extra charge from the game.