Fever Pitch (2005)

Admittedly, there was no reason whatsoever to remake the 1997 film Fever Pitch, which was about soccer and took place in Britain. True, the majority of Americans are going to like a movie about baseball far more than one about soccer, so this one has far more box office potential, but in terms of general plot and themes, the films are essentially identical. They’re also both based on the same source material, which in this case is a novel by Nick Hornby. It makes sense that they’re similar.

Despite the differences in sports, neither film is truly about the event that takes place in a large stadium and consumes the thoughts of fans on a daily basis. They’re about relationships and addictions, learning to let go or hold on, and about finding the right balance in one’s life. The sport causes more tension that it ought to, and becomes one of the main sources of conflict, but it could easily be replaced with something else — anything that takes up too much time for one of the parties in a relationship could serve this function, and it’s for this reason that Fever Pitch seems very familiar.

It’s usually work that fits this role. Someone spends too much time at the office, leading to the partner and possibly the offspring to feel neglected. That someone then has to either choose one or the other — the family life or the working one — or strike a balance to make everything work out, often giving up a promotion in the process. You have seen this film before. In fact, Fever Pitch has a character who does work incredibly hard to secure a promotion. It just never gets in the way of her real life. She’s too smart for that.

Fever Pitch takes place in the 2004 baseball season, which you’ll remember (or try to forget, if you’re a Yankee fan), as the one in which a miraculous comeback occurred for the Boston Red Sox. The film takes place in hindsight, and never once tries to make you question whether or not the Sox will come back after being down 3-0 in the division series. However, because the characters don’t know this, there’s some dramatic irony to be had at their expense.

There are two leads. The first is the die-hard Sox fan, schoolteacher Ben Wrightman (Jimmy Fallon). His uncle passed on season tickets, and he hasn’t missed a game in the last eleven years. He meets a woman, Lindsey Meeks (Drew Barrymore), during the off-season, and seems like the perfect man. It’s only once the season starts that she learns just how important the Sox are to his life, and how big of a hurdle this addiction, for lack of a better word, will be to overcome.

To the film’s credit, they try so very hard to make it work, and it seems for the longest time that they will. Fever Pitch seems to be building to the big reveal, where she’ll dump him on the spot for being a manchild about the Sox, but then it doesn’t go there. It feels real because of this. You can see their relationship going in either direction, and because each character feels like someone you’ve known, it feels genuine. It avoids romantic comedy pitfalls until the very end, and by that point, it doesn’t matter; you’re already hooked.

What makes the sports part of the story more interesting than your typical “overworked at the office” one is that (1) you know the outcome and (2) it can work as an inspiration to be perfectly juxtaposed against the conclusion to the romance storyline, regardless of outcome. If it’s not a happy ending, then that’s emphasized by the cheers of the crowd ad Ortiz his another walk-off home run. If it’s a happy ending, then it’s all the happier.

The film is very sweet, quite gentle, humorous, and not at all challenging. That’s okay. Do you expect a rom-com to make you think? What it does is creates a couple of relatable people, puts them in a relationship, and lets them work out their troubles, one way or another. It’s a touching and actually quite moving film, and it has a point, too. It does lose humor as it progresses, but I found that to be acceptable. It moves into more romance than comedy, and that’s what makes it somewhat affecting.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Drew Barrymore, but she plays the working woman well in this film. Jimmy Fallon does his best work at the beginning, when his charming, nice-guy routine mixed with a keen sense of humor is used to woo the lady. In real drama, neither succeeds, but that’s why it’s a romantic comedy and not a drama. Different actors would have been cast if it was. It’s worth noting that these are the only two actors and characters that matter; the film is about them, squarely about them, and while there are some supporting roles that get some screen time, they ultimately don’t matter.

Fever Pitch is a good romantic comedy. How many times can you utter those words without a hint of irony or sarcasm? Maybe one in every ten? Twenty? By mixing sports with love, it creates a funny and touching movie. It places two very real character into a relationship and lets them work it all out for themselves. It feels genuine, it never lingers, it’s harmless, and I had a good time with it. It’s an unnecessary remake, but it’s a good film and I’m perfectly okay with it existing. You should give it a watch.

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