Nick Hornby’s memoir Fever Pitch depicts a life consumed by soccer (football, actually, since Hornby is English). He spends two hundred pages examining his own obsession with the team Arsenal, occasionally digressing to ponder why obsessions with sports teams exist, and what effect they have on the human psyche.
Enter the Farrelly brothers, the comedy directing team behind There’s Something about Mary and Kingpin, and screenwriters Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, who wrote Robots. Together they lift Hornby’s character and the title of his book and plop them down into a romantic comedy starring Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon.
Fever Pitch is not the most faithful adaptation of a Hornby book (About a Boy and High Fidelity were pretty close), but it’s a passable romantic comedy that’s partly about obsession.
About a Boy (and a Girl)
PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, sensuality
In England, “pitch” refers to the field on which football is played. Here in America, the word keeps its sporting connotation in baseball. Ben (Fallon) is a Boston Red Sox fan. He has been since his uncle took him to a game at Fenway park when he was a boy. He’s not just a fan, he’s a rabid, drooling, obsessive fan. He never misses a home game. Anything in his apartment that can have a Red Sox logo printed on it, does, except for the Yankees toilet paper.
Ben, a schoolteacher, brings five math students to meet a genuine financial whiz and data modeler Lindsey (Drew Barrymore), someone who has made a career of mathematics. He likes her, and before he leaves he asks her out, and they tentatively start a relationship.
Ben is a good match for Lindsey, who is often too aloof to sustain a relationship. Her career is very important, and so far nobody is good enough for her. This insight into her personality comes from her three friends, who serve as a sort of Greek chorus. (Ben has his own chorus of friends, all Sox fans; he makes them humiliate themselves to see who gets to share the best of his season tickets.)
But Lindsey’s friends also wonder why Ben is still single, if he’s as good a catch as he appears to be? What sort of hairy skeletons does he have in his closet? It’s a fair question, and the answer is, of course, Ben’s Soxophilia. Lindsey knows that Ben is a big fan, but until the season starts, she doesn’t realize just how obsessed he is.
Every romantic comedy has to have some rocky patches for the boy and the girl to cross. In this case, the rocky patches are almost entirely caused by Ben’s obsession. He can’t visit Lindsey’s parents over Easter because he’ll be down in Florida for spring training. He drags her away from work to take her to see ball games, but he won’t miss a ball game if she has something for them to do together. He even turns down a spur-of-the moment trip to Paris, the doofus, because the Mariners are coming to town.
As in every other romantic comedy, the boy and the girl work through their differences and, well, you can guess the rest. The ending did offer one surprise, especially to the Farrellys. After going 0-3 in the pennant race with the Yankees, the Sox won the next four games to claim the pennant, and then went on to win the World Series. While the romantic comedy didn’t require the Sox to win, it was a bit of serendipity that the Farrellys worked into the ending.
Fever Pitch is an enjoyable romantic comedy, and not much more. Barrymore gets first billing, as she deserves. She is finally looking a little more mature, but she’s still as cute and endearing as ever. Fallon holds his own in her glowing presence. Their chemistry doesn’t really crackle, but they are a cute couple that we can root for.
Fever Pitch is not as outright hilarious as There’s Something about Mary, and thankfully not as gross as Me Myself & Irene. But the Farrelly brothers still have the comic touch. Even if you don’t love the movie, you can have a good time and a few laughs.