It’s no secret that I think Jimmy Fallon is to acting as The Backstreet Boys are/were to music. While his goof off abilities tend to follow the same bland pseudo-funny quality, his “characters” are practically non-existent. And then there’s Fever Pitch where his over-exaggerated eye movements are paired up with the over-exaggerated mouth pulls of Drew Barrymore. The difference here, the thing that makes this movie not Duplex, or Taxi, is that Drew and Jimmy are playing characters that seem more real. I wouldn’t say they have layers, but they have a layer of a personality to them. That slight bit of depth to their characters makes it just bearable enough to sit through to see how it ends.
Fever Pitch is based on a book of the same name by Nick Hornby. It’s about a man obsessed with soccer and was actually made into a movie a few years ago in Europe. (Hollywood and its original ideas strikes again.) For the American version, they changed the sport to baseball and thought a great agony of true fan-dom would be for the guy to be a Red Sox fan. For anyone that doesn’t know, it’s been believed that there was a “Curse of the Bambino” on the team for selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees and as a result the team hadn’t won a World Series game since 1918. (“World” Series, of course, meaning a competition between American teams.) Fallon’s character Ben is an obsessed fan. He loves his Sox and can’t find a girl to tolerate his addiction to the sport and the team. Along comes Barrymore who goes out on a limb and believes his fascination will allow her more guilt-free time to work towards “that big promotion” most main characters are striving for.
If it’s at all possible, the Farrelly brothers have created a monster; they actually made a chick flick. Now, I know what you’re thinking. A married woman, mother of a toddler, this must be Margaret’s kind of a movie. Egad! Didn’t you just sigh with romanticism when Ben cleaned up Drew's vomit in the bathroom? Aw, he took care of her in her worst moments. Someone hold my hair, I’m going to throw up. Moments like these, and there were a few, come off forced and hold all the typical cliches for romantic comedies. The writers knew this was an unnecessary tug at women’s heart strings and I think it’s a cheap way to ask you to like a character. These scenes were written because they knew it would “read well with a female test audience", not because they believed he was that type of a guy. There’s a well-known scene (the one from all the trailers) where Barrymore gets hit in the head with a baseball. Where’s his sympathy now? How come he’s high-fiving the guy across from her limp body instead of caring for her? If his character was intended to be a caring guy, just one into his sport, then he needs to be consistently caring. That’s like telling “Saturday Night Live” (where Fallon came from) to be funny and stay that way. Oh wait, that’s a bad example.
There are funny moments to Fever Pitch, there just aren’t enough of them to carry the whole film. However, this problem is not exclusive to this movie. Too often the modern love story throws a man and a woman together in predictable roles and we knew within the first five minutes how the last five minutes will end. They meet, they fall in love, they live happily ever after. I hate that story line. I’ve seen that story line. It makes me feel as underestimated as a thinking woman as I think my toddler feels about most of the TV shows geared toward her demographic. Who the hell is “Dooley” anyway and why is a space thing that looks like a pig with antennae hanging out with the tin man, a bunch of kids, and a mail carrier? Oh, wait, we can’t watch that, “Jakers” is on, the show about the Irish CGI farm animals. I don’t want my kid exposed to that anymore than I want to be exposed to Fallon’s disappointing script choices. He has the ability to do better, at least I’m pretty sure of it. I just don’t think being funny is for him anymore. Let Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller keep doing their jobs uninterrupted.
One thing that may have helped the movie would have been if the sports fanatic was Drew Barrymore. Let the man be the one that’s not interested, and let the woman go wild about her team. At least it would have broken some molds. Without changing anything, however, Fever Pitch should be filed in the “cute” folder. It’s cute. Cute’s fine, people got paid for their work, no one could be happier. But it's time to shut the filing cabinet drawer and never think about it ever again.
Despite Fever Pitch’s short comings, some of the extras on the disc are actually decent. However, as you open the box covered with the airbrushed faces of Fallon and Barrymore, and before you even get to the main menu, you have to sit through the anti-piracy FBI warning video where they try to make a cool commercial about not downloading movies and music. What’s funny here, is that if you have an illegal copy, I’m betting it doesn’t have the warning on it. So…only the people that paid for the DVD are getting told to not steal a copy. Interesting. Next there’s a montage of movies Twentieth Century Fox has done and wants you to be excited about. This too, you cannot press Menu to avoid.
When it comes to the real extras, the first problem is that you can hardly make out the baseball icon you’re supposed to use as a cursor. But once you find it, there are some nice deleted scenes and a great gag reel. There are a couple of internet featurettes (meaning only about two minutes long), “Love Triangle” and “Breaking the Curse.” The latter is where you learn that it was not in the script for the Red Sox to win the World Series in 2004. The fact that they finally won was perfect for the script and the cast were literally thrown into a van and driven to the playoff games. Fox Sports lent them one of their eighteen cameras for filming. The scenes with Fallon and Barrymore on the field with the victorious Red Sox are true and not staged at all. If anything, that is my favorite aspect of the movie and the filming process. This is followed up by the theatrical trailer and “Making a Scene: Fever Pitch” which is a good look at the characters and their story.
The strangest thing on the disc is the directors’ commentary with Peter and Bobby Farrelly. They talk most of the time, but much of the discussion doesn’t seem to stay focused on the movie. It’s as though they are disinterested in the film themselves. They spend a majority of the air space talking about different authors, websites, actors, producers, etc. It’s like they’re rubbing shoulders with the big wigs and can’t keep from going, “oh, yeah, they’re great, yes they are.” Almost every actor in the film is said to have a chance to be going far in the business, or that they’re the next big thing. One girl in the film that is a background fill in with no lines is supposed to be a "rising star, that one, make sure to remember her name", which they then say about five times. Strange, I don’t remember what it is now, but she’ll be a hit I tell ya, a hit! About the most ludicrous thing is that the Farrelly brothers describe Fallon’s performance as very Hanks-ian.
What? I know they didn’t just compare Tom Hanks to Jimmy Fallon. That's it. Time to toss this disc aside and anxiously await the "brilliant" performance Fallon will obviously have in Castaway 3000.
Reviewed By: Margaret Williams