The Athletic Reporter
September 12, 2005 Sports News the Way You Want It. Completely Made Up. Issue 127
The Average Mulder
by Joe Mulder
Fever Pitch

I was prepared to hate Fever Pitch. But I didn't.

I have a few problems with it, but, we'll get to that. I realized, however, that it would be tough to review the movie as a sports fan (because it's really a romantic comedy/boy-meets-girl flick, not a sports movie). But, it would be tough to review the movie from the perspective of someone who neither knows nor cares about sports, since I've been following sports closely my whole life.

What to do, what to do. If only there were some way to get both perspectives. If only there were somebody I could turn to, somebody who likes movies, doesn't follow sports, maybe lives with me... hey, I know!

Herewith, a review of Bobby and Peter Farrelly's Fever Pitch, from The Average Mulder and, in a special guest appearance, his wife Karen (she'll be the one in italics).

Okay. The basics: high school geometry teacher Ben Wrightman (Jimmy Fallon) is an obsessive Boston Red Sox fan, which is to say, a Boston Red Sox fan. His late uncle Carl bequeathed him season tickets within spitting distance of the Red Sox dugout in hallowed Fenway Park. In late October of 2003, he meets and begins a relationship with Lindsey (Drew Barrymore), a successful -- if work-obsessed -- numbers... sort of... person (we never find out exactly what she does, other than she works with math. That's how the two meet; he brings some students by to talk to her, to show them that math can turn out to be applicable in the real world).

She manages to get over the fact that he's "just a school teacher" (she and her friends inhabit a higher socioeconomic stratum), but there's one little hiccup: his Red Sox obsession. Can he learn to love her like he loves the Sox? Can she learn to love him while he loves the Sox?

We'll do our best to avoid spoilers here, but, you have, like, been to a movie before, right?


I have a higher tolerance threshold for romantic comedies than most guys seem to; I'm happy to watch Notting Hill or When Harry Met Sally... if need be. Those are good movies, and I'm not going to hold the fact that they're romantic comedies against them. Fever Pitch, while not quite measuring up to those favorites of mine, is a good romantic comedy. Be warned that the baseball action is almost nil; the Red Sox serve as an obstacle in the relationship of Ben and Lindsey, and not much else. They try to shoehorn in some Red Sox-as-metaphor business a couple of times, but I found that to be one of the few areas in which the film doesn't succeed.

But listen to me prattle on; what did you think, babe?

Okay, well to start I think I would like to discuss the idea of the "chick flick." It seems like most romantic comedies end up lumped into this category and then most men feel they need to stay away. This movie really made me reflect on the difference between a true blue "chick flick" (i.e., Sweet November or City of Angels) or a well-rounded romantic comedy that men can enjoy as much as women (Notting Hill or When Harry Met Sally... to use Joe's examples). And I think the major difference is how men are portrayed in the films themselves. The reason women (like myself) love something like City of Angels is because the hero falls for the heroine very fast and very hard and gives up anything he needs to just to be with her. We women love this stuff, and why not? It's just for fun. But let's face it: this is not how men actually fall in love.

I do believe that men are inherently afraid of commitment, and I think any movie that deals with this issue and still finds a way for the guy to get the girl is one that stands the best chance of pleasing both men and women.
Fever Pitch is definitely one of these movies. For starters it is based on a book by Nick Hornby, who is also responsible for movies such as High Fidelity and About a Boy. Now, I don't know a man alive who has seen High Fidelity and didn't love it. And while I like that movie an awful lot it's hard for me to get as swept away by it because we don't get to see things from the woman's perspective as much as I'd like. Fever Pitch provides us with the insight into both characters, and we don't take sides as an audience. We like both characters, root for both characters and truly hope that they find a way to work out their differences.

One thing Joe mentioned that I really would like to touch on though is the idea that women would actually consider the fact that a man was a school teacher a liability. I mean, I'm a waitress, not an executive, but I can't imagine a woman (well, not any normal woman) actually considering this a liability. What do we know about a man who chooses this as his profession? He chooses to spend his day with children. He prizes education. He has a lot of free time. He's not rich, but he is not poor either. I mean, I know someone like Paris Hilton wouldn't date a teacher, but I think the other 99% of America's female population would be happy to.

Okay, so I've written a lot and still not mentioned the Sox. So, I'd better start talking about them, huh? The thing is, the Sox are really just a metaphor for all the things that men tend to push women aside for. Sometimes it's a sports event, sometimes it's a poker game, but there's always something. Relationships really are about give and take. I can't tell you how many times Joe and I have had two different things going on the same night and we had to find a way to work it out. Sometimes we do his thing, sometimes we do mine and sometimes we go our separate ways for the night. And while I feel Joe and I usually handle these occasions very well, these are the the things that can drive a couple apart. And it's this issue that really drives the movie and really makes it ring true. Okay, Joe your turn...

Ah, yes. I can't disagree; the Red Sox are used in Fever Pitch as a metaphor for any of those things that, over the course of a relationship, tend to divide a couple (poker games, shopping, time with the relatives; what Karen was talking about). I'm thinking more of an overarching metaphor; at one point, Ben tells Lindsey that he likes baseball because it's fair. You can't cheat (and he's not talking about steroids and spitballs, he's talking about God-given ability). You can fake your way through almost anything in life, he says, but in baseball, you might have a lucky game but you can't have a lucky career.

That's the sort of stuff that I think could have put Fever Pitch over the top, and that's the way I think the Farrellys could have woven the Red Soxs' (how in the world do you do a plural possessive of "Red Sox"?) unexpected World Series win into their story. It's no secret that the film was originally supposed to end with the Red Sox once again not winning the World Series, just as they had failed to do in each of the previous 86 seasons. Since the 87th time was the charm, the filmmakers obviously felt they had to scramble to change their movie. In fact, though, the Red Sox winning the World Series had little to do with the film's conclusion.

I would have loved to have seen the Red Sox victory used as a metaphor for faith rewarded -- you've got two people, both in their 30s and neither one having found the love of their life, and yet neither has given up the idea, despite all of the times they've had their hearts broken, that one day, if they keep looking and stay open to the possibility, it could happen for them just like it's happened for so many others. Gee, do those characters sound like the fans of any certain New England-based professional sports team in particular?

I know, I know; you're supposed to review the movie they made, not the one that they didn't make. Still, my chief complaint about Fever Pitch is that it didn't make good use of the fact that the Red Sox finally won it all. Maybe they didn't have enough time to work that in; they tried, but the World Series run seemed shoehorned in rather inelegantly. That's what I thought, anyway. Maybe the wife thinks differently...

Actually, I do completely agree about the ending. While we are "avoiding spoilers," I just pictured something different. I read a few places that once they realized that the Sox could actually win they had to rework the script, but truth be told I can't imagine the last main scene between our two lovebirds would have been much different if the Sox hadn't won the World Series. I really like what Joe said about having your faith rewarded and that analogy did not occur to me until I read what Joe wrote. So, they really could have tied it all up in a pretty package where this man finally got everything he ever wanted all in one day.

Okay, so now on to those famous directors. I did actually read that this was a Farrelly brothers movie a few weeks ago, but totally forgot that fact while I was watching it. And I do consider this to be a good thing. Don't get me wrong; I don't dislike the Farrelly Brothers (in fact I just adore
Shallow Hal [Average Mulder editor's note: So do I]), but they can be a bit over the top and I'm not sure that their usual brand of humor would have meshed with this script all that well. But, they really set their usual style aside and did something great. I honestly have a lot more respect for their talent and versatility after having seen this flick. So, that's another way for us to review this movie. There's the sports fan and the non-sports fan. But also the Farrelly brothers fan and the non-Farrelly brothers fan. So, I guess that'll be Joe's next topic...

Well, I don't know how you can call yourself a non-Farrelly brothers fan if you haven't even seen There's Something About Mary all the way through... but I must say that I think that the two of them were the ideal choice to make Fever Pitch. They always bring a bit of authenticity and soul to their movies, and this was no different. Fever Pitch may have been a bit lacking in the genital humor department (which is a shame, if you ask me), but some Farrelly touches were evident. Ben and Lindsey's first date involves prodigious amounts of vomit (albeit offscreen), and, after their first meeting, one of Ben's students, in encouraging him to ask Lindsey out, says that she definitely saw Lindsey taking a "glance to the pants."

And Drew Barrymore is just lovely, as always; she's essentially playing what would be described, if she weren't actually in the movie, as "the Drew Barrymore role." Cute, hot yet approachable, ready for anything, the kind of girl your parents would love but you wouldn't be afraid to burp in front of. Can't say anything bad about Drew Barrymore.

Jimmy Fallon, though, is another matter. He's perfectly charming, I'm sure, and I would imagine that he sells the "I'm so cute, couldn't you just fall in love with me" scenes (I can't say for sure, because I'm not into dudes, okay? So just BACK OFF!). When it comes to the heavy lifting, though -- and when you've spent the last six years giggling through sketches with Horatio Sanz, having to show up at Drew Barrymore's door in a Farrelly brothers movie and tell her you want her back certainly qualifies as heavy lifting -- I wasn't quite sold. Maybe it's my fault; I think of Fallon as a sketch comedian and I know he's not much of a sports fan, so I couldn't completely accept him as a Red Sox-obsessed romantic lead. Ultimately, though, I think Karen's right; Fever Pitch is more Romantic Comedy than Chick Flick, and should be a fun time for any women who don't harbor some sort of irrational resentment toward sports and any guys who aren't afraid their nuts will shrivel into dust like a vampire exposed to direct sunlight just because they watch a movie that involves a couple in love. Back to you, babe; final thoughts about Jimmy Fallon, the Sox, or anything else we haven't touched on?

Okay, well, have to rave about Miss Barrymore. Boy if she hasn't turned her life around. I remember when she was in the tabloids for doing drugs and posing for Playboy right when she turned 18. I really couldn't stand her as a teenager, but I have come to love her so much as an actress and as a person. I just can't say enough nice things about her. Oh, and for no particular reason I'd like to mention that I saw her in a yoga class once and she's adorable in person.

Now Jimmy Fallon. Well, I have to give him a much better review than Joe. I had no problem buying him at all. His character knows he's reaching out of his league when he asks Lindsey out, but there are so many things he does along the way that show how much he's willing to do for her. He really is playing a nice guy. A guy who cleans up vomit and bonds with your parents. This guy really is who all women should be looking for. The only thing I will say about his performance is that I think playing a role can fall into three categories: A) Be miscast, B) Do a perfectly good job, or C) Make the part so much your own that it seems no one else could have done it. So, I would put Fallon in that "B" group. You could have dropped him and slipped Affleck in without missing a beat, but I still had no problems with his performance whatsoever.

So, that's all really, but I did want to say I loved all the scenes where Lindsey is working out with her friends. There is quite a lot of female bonding that occurs while you're burning calories and I got a kick out of all those scenes and the actresses in them. Okay, it's time for Joe to wrap it up...

And wrap up I shall. I think the wife and I both liked Fever Pitch, I think that if you're a hardcore baseball fan there may be a couple of things that bother you (like Red Sox season ticket holders discussing the Curse of the Bambino as if they actually believe in it), and I think that the movie was not quite as good as it could have been, but still much better than it had any right to be.

Final verdict: the Mulder family assures you that Fever Pitch is worth seeing.
Joe Mulder

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