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Fallon, Farrellys Strike Out With 'Fever Pitch'

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By Desson Thomson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 8, 2005

IT WOULD be tempting to call "Fever Pitch" a foul ball or some baseball term suggesting catastrophe, but that would be too flattering. The movie -- an American baseball recasting of a British soccer novel -- never quite steps up to its own plate. It's almost too dull to pan.

I said "almost." Please stand by while I summon the outrage. Cue the sound of crickets, as I mentally rewind all those woeful scenes in which Drew Barrymore pretends to be attracted to Jimmy Fallon . . . Okay! Ready!

This movie's a deadwood disappointment -- and not because any cultural transmogrification of soccer or British culture or anything by "Fever Pitch" author Nick Hornby is necessarily doomed. After all, you may recall reading in these very pages a spirited, thumbs-up review of "High Fidelity," starring John Cusack, which successfully turned Hornby's novel about a circle of British record-store list-making nerds into a Chicago-based story with American clerks.

You may also recall a dismissal of the English version of "Fever Pitch," the 1997 film starring Colin Firth, which Hornby himself wrote. The reason? Hornby's novel was about a soccer fan whose hopeless love affair with the London team Arsenal was entertainingly long on lyrical detail. But the British "Fever Pitch" used soccer as a passing backdrop for the romance. I am betting that Mr. Hornby doesn't watch that DVD too often.

The latest "Fever Pitch" turns an English Arsenal fan into an American Boston Red Sox fan, a high school teacher named Ben Wrightman. That's Fallon, whose performance here suggests a chipmunk trying to shake off a heroin addiction. He's doped up, twitchy and constantly uncomfortable. Blessed with lifelong season tickets just behind the dugout at Fenway Park, he's a rabid Soxer who has been to every inning since he was a kid and feels the collective pain of the Curse of the Bambino. For those of you not in the know, the curse refers to the Red Sox's almost century-long World Series drought ever since selling Babe Ruth to the unspeakable, diabolical New York Yankees.

Ben meets and falls for successful business consultant Lindsey Meeks (Barrymore). But he's socially inept, a man-child who can't maintain a relationship because of his mania. For no apparent reason, Lindsey's circle of girlfriends (culled from a Central Casting rolodex of Professional Girlfriends) urges her to date the hapless loser.

So they embark on a formulaic relationship so predictable, you wonder why filmmaking brothers Bobby and Peter Farrelly (makers of "Dumb & Dumber," "There's Something About Mary") even wanted to do this. There isn't one true Farrelly moment in the whole film, not one little pratfall, no hair incidents, no nothing. Why did they bother? If it's a shock to learn that the Farrellys were behind this, it's no surprise that the screenplay was written by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, who charted a steady descent from the promising "Splash" to those awful Billy Crystal movies. With Fallon as a romantic lead and the Crystal-meisters popping pabulum into his mouth, this movie never stood a chance. Even Boston Red Sox fans are likely to turn away in disgust. If this movie proves anything, it's that some good things are better left alone, instead of being coated over with artificial cheese and served with nacho chips at the local mallplex.

FEVER PITCH (PG-13, 98 minutes) -- Contains sexual language, sexual scenes, obscenity and cartoon violence. Area theaters.

Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore play a Red Sox-obsessed fan and his girlfriend in the disappointing comedy "Fever Pitch."


© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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