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The Family Filmgoer

By Jane Horwitz
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, April 8, 2005; Page WE46

FEVER PITCH (PG-13, 98 minutes)

Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore light up the screen surprisingly well as co-stars in this amiable romantic comedy about Ben, a boyish schoolteacher, and Lindsey, an elegant female executive, who fall madly in love. They hit a snag, though, when Ben's all-consuming passion for the Boston Red Sox turns him into another person entirely during baseball season -- the sort who yells like an idiot into a TV camera in praise of his team. Teenagers who appreciate comedy in its subtler (but not too subtle) forms will grin. The movie contains occasional crude language and profanity, a funny/gross sequence about vomit, plenty of mild sexual innuendo (by today's PG-13 standards), and a few passionate kissing scenes leading up to merely implied sexual situations and morning-after cuddles. A possible unplanned pregnancy becomes a brief subplot. Flashbacks to Ben's childhood deal with his parents' divorce and his depression, cured by trips with an uncle to Boston's Fenway Park.

Based on a book by British writer Nick Hornby, "Fever Pitch" was made into a British film in 1997 (rated R) starring Colin Firth as an obsessive soccer -- English "football" -- fan. This version of "Fever Pitch" feels authentic, too, because co-directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly and screenwriters Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel had the inspiration to set it in Boston, where, as one character says, one can become "one of God's most pathetic creatures -- a Red Sox fan." They also had the luck to film when the BoSox won the World Series. The usually over-the-top Farrellys throw this one gently over the plate.

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SAHARA (PG-13, 124 minutes)

"Sahara" starts out as a reasonably diverting, if unoriginal and instantly forgettable, adventure flick. Teenagers into archaeology and action films may glean some enjoyment from it, but the oasis of fun in this desert proves a mirage. The PG-13 rating reflects mild sexual innuendo and profanity, and a lot of violence with minimum gore -- stabbings, gunplay, head-banging fights, cannon fire, attack helicopters and powerboat chases.

Based on a novel by Clive Cussler, the disjointed and baldly derivative story (Indiana Jonesesque comes to mind) is all about chases, battles and ancient mysteries that are run, fought and unearthed by the testosteronically named hero, Dirk Pitt (Matthew McConaughey). Archaeologist, scholar and sometime grave robber, Pitt is hunting for an ironclad battle ship from the American Civil War, which disappeared without a trace. The trail leads him to the coast of Africa, where he and his sidekick Al (Steve Zahn, always fun to watch) take temporary leave of the international salvage ship on which they officially work and follow Pitt's hunch. Along the way he rescues a beautiful doctor (Penelope Cruz) with the World Health Organization who is attacked by masked men while she gathers blood samples to study a mysterious ailment that leaves dead victims with sores and bloodied eyes. Their very different quests somehow converge as they travel up the Niger River into more mysteries. Toss in a nefarious businessman (Lambert Wilson) and his solar power plant, a corrupt military and a rebel army and you have -- not much.

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