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Their Arsenal: The Farrelly brothers replace soccer with Sox

As regional yuck-meisters, the Farrelly brothers (like Todd Solondz) might once have been considered the spawn of John Waters. Always commercial, their work has grown increasingly sentimental—a trend that culminates in Fever Pitch, which, written by veteran schmaltzers Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, reconfigures Nick Hornby's confessional account of his obsession with the North London soccer team Arsenal into a feel-good celluloid footnote to the Red Sox's triumphal 2004 season.

Happy-go-lucky grade school teacher Ben Wrightman (Jimmy Fallon) falls in love with high-powered career-something Lindsey Meeks (Drew Barrymore). After two movies opposite Adam Sandler, Barrymore is more than equal to the task of feigning passion for Fallon. Class differences can be resolved as well; what's most important here, albeit disguised as the question of whether Ben can grow up, is Lindsey's capacity to adjust to his summer identity as the most fanatical of Red Sox fans.

With half the movie set in a Fenway Park box a half-dozen rows behind the home dugout, Fever Pitch is barely a screwball comedy, let alone a gunk-loaded spitball like There's Something About Mary. The movie makes a few feeble gestures toward disgust and embarrassment. Lindsey gets food poisoning on the eve of her first date with Ben—he cleans up the puke, and in an unmistakable Farrelly touch, brushes her dog's teeth. But the ickiest thing about Fever Pitch is its reverential Field of Dreams music.

Barely screwball: Barrymore and Fallon
photo: Darren Michaels/20th Century Fox
Barely screwball: Barrymore and Fallon

Details

Fever Pitch
Directed by Peter Farrelly and Bobby Farrelly
20th Century Fox, in release

Damn Yankees! used baseball fandom as the basis for a pop Faust. Fever Pitch is closer to The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima; it's a religious movie made from within its particular cult. The crisis occurs when Lindsey causes Ben to miss "the greatest game ever played." Unlike other references to the 2004 season, this bottom-of-the-ninth, come-from-behind victory over the Yankees is fictitious. I was, however, pleased to see Ben flagellate himself by compulsively watching Game Six of the 1986 World Series—the real greatest game ever played.

 
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