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20th Century Fox presents
"It smells like the year."
DVD ReviewImagine your father confronting you with a bong and a dime bag he "found" in your night table drawer, combined with your girlfriend catching you making out with her sister, and you'll have a sense what it was like for me in a house full of Yankee fans to admit that not only did I watch this movie, but, um, I actually *liked* it. Shame, betrayal, the titillation of apostasy, the thrill of getting away with something you know you shouldn't—it's all right there. This is an imperfect movie, certainly, but it's a good strong portrait of what it means to be an obsessive sports fan, and the toll that takes on those who love (or want to love) you.
This is about as straight a Farrelly brothers picture as they have made, and though they're clearly die-hard fans, you can feel them chafing a little bit, giving the movie a sort of square peg/round hole feel. It's based on a novel by Nick Hornby, and as was his High Fidelity, the action has been moved across the pond: Hornby wrote about an obsessed soccer fan, who here becomes Ben Wrightman, who lives and dies with the Red Sox. The screenplay is by the very successful team of Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, the writers on such down-the-middle studio comedies as Splash and Parenthood; they don't seem to share the outrageous sensibility of the Farrellys, and what's here is very, very respectful, almost too respectful. Anyway: Ben teaches high school math, and though he's winning and motivated, his heart is in Fenway Park. His Uncle Carl infected him with the Red Sox bug, and passed along his sweet pair of season tickets—Ben is a grown man who sleeps on Red Sox sheets and has a Fenway Frank phone, which, depending on your perspective, is either endearing or embarrassingly juvenile.
And the one who has to choose her perspective on that is Lindsey, a high-powered exec bucking for a promotion; Ben isn't the corporate sort she's used to dating, but he's cute and he's funny, and it helps that they meet in November, giving their relationship a couple of months to evolve before pitchers and catchers report. This is a sports movie, sure, but principally it's a romantic comedy, and funnily enough, it frequently works best outside of the ballpark.
Ben is played by Jimmy Fallon, who brings a shaggy charm to the role; Lindsey gets an awful case of food poisoning prior to their first date, and he proves himself to be a real sweetie, nursing her back to health and crashing on her couch. Drew Barrymore is both a producer on the picture and its leading lady—she's not really a great comedienne, but she's an adult here, which is great, and there's something deeply endearing about her. The plot feels a little ginned up, though, with her spending the summer in some sort of office bake-off for the big promotion while Ben hangs on every pitch; it's a structural necessity, I guess, but it doesn't really get sold.
The Farrellys have never had the most deft touch, and there are some physical gags and pratfalls that you can sense coming from miles away; also, Lindsey is one of a tightly knit group of four close friends, and their scenes together feel like cut-rate Sex and the City vignettes. More surprising, though, is the painfully expository manner in which those who sit near Ben at Fenway are used as a chorus of sorts, allowing the film to walk the uninitiated through the curse of the Bambino and all that. These people don't sound at all like genuine sports fans or ballpark regulars, striking many flat notes in a picture that wants to pride itself on its passion and authenticity.
As you are most likely aware, the baseball gods finally looked bountifully upon the Red Sox and wreaked havoc with this film's production schedule—for the first time in 86 years, the Red Sox won the World Series, necessitating some rewriting and reshooting. But what's actually kind of nice is that, for all of Ben's passion, it's not really a movie about baseball; it's about his relationship with Lindsey, and the story follows the contours of a classically structured Hollywood romantic comedy, and because of that, whatever the box scores say, this one's a winner.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+
Image Transfer Review: A good solid transfer, deeply saturated and with few artifacts.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: Very atmospheric, though if your home system isn't tricked out with surround speakers, you're going to miss out on a lot, as a good amount of dialogue is piped through all the channels of the 5.1 track.
Audio Transfer Grade: A-
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
13 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Peter and Bobby Farrelly
Some of the 13 deleted scenes are just snippets; the best ones are with young Ben and his Uncle Carl, the birth of Ben's passion for the Sox, though also notable is a scene of Ben's unrequited love for Manny Ramirez, who doesn't answer back to Ben's one-sided conversation during BP. A gag reel (05m:58s) is full of shots of actors goofing with props, and of Barrymore belching; Love Triangle (02m:11s) is a featurette of Barrymore doing junket stuff, and Breaking the Curse (02m:41s) focuses on Fallon and 1918. Making a Scene (08m:02s), produced for the Fox Movie Channel, features the producers discussing the Sox' unexpected good fortune as production went on, and also includes a few choice words from Captain Caveman Johnny Damon and Big Papi, David Ortiz.
Extras Grade: B-
Final CommentsDeep in our hearts, all sports fans know that we share a common passion regardless of the color of the laundry, and it's a love that those on the outside looking in will never understand—yes, honey, in fact, the world *will* end if I don't get to see SportsCenter. This is something of a ragtag movie, but it's made by members of the fraternity; you can hate the Red Sox and still have a fondness for Fever Pitch, and, if the sports section is what you reach for first when the morning paper arrives, it's hard not to.
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