A romantic comedy that’s not particularly funny, nor romantic, Fever Pitch is somewhat of a strangely wild throw.
Brought to us courtesy of Bobby and Peter Farrelly, a twosome that started off their careers with the always crude and frequently hilarious comedies Dumb & Dumber and There’s Something about Mary, Fever Pitch marks another step in the wrong direction for the once bawdy brothers. About the time Mary finished washing that “gel” out of her hair, the Farrelly’s dropped their whole raunchy approach in favor of a sanded-down version of themselves. You won’t find characters as amusingly absurd as Harry and Lloyd or see characters having such disgusting experiences as Ted Stroehmann’s (Ben Stiller) “twig-and-berry” scene in a Farrelly Brothers movie anymore.
In recent years the focus of their films changed too. The Farrelly’s were no longer content to make the proudly tasteless debacles they once had. Now they are trying to make emotional connections with their notoriously oddball characters. It hasn’t worked. Shallow Hal was a one-note joke with no emotional attachment and Stuck on You, while not half-bad, seemed to be more a waste of its actor’s talents.
In Fever Pitch, which itself is nothing more than a remake of a 1997 British soccer comedy by the same name, the Farrelly’s are doing it again. As in those last two films, they’re serving up their slightly strange characters for us to associate with, while entirely avoiding any of the off-kilter, and sometimes vulgar, humor that made them famous.
This time instead of conjoined twins, we get obsessive personalities. Drew Barrymore stars as Lindsey Meeks, a workaholic businesswoman who can never find the time to date. If that sounds familiar it’s because Eva Mendes played the same exact role – badly – two months ago in Hitch.
Then Jimmy Fallon arrives as Ben. He’s a noble teacher type who’s goaded by his students into asking Lindsey, who he meets on a field trip with them, out. Initially, as is par for the course in romantic comedies, she turns him down. It’s only a matter of time though before Ben’s invited over for a first date and winds up cleaning Lindsey’s vomit to show how nice a guy he is.
Then conflict shows up in the form of an abnormal Red Sox obsession. It seems Ben is a different person once opening day rolls around. He’s instantly transformed into a frothing, psychotic fan. Suddenly all that Sox paraphernalia (which went previously unmentioned by Lindsey), including shower curtains, towels and Yankees toilet paper, makes sense. Eventually problems arise from his overzealous fanaticism: He’s avoiding family gatherings and refusing to go on trips to Paris because the team “needs” him.
While the film stumbles around setting up the inevitable, Barrymore radiates. She’s lively, cheerful and the lone bright spot in the film. Even without her usual partner, Adam Sandler, she’s absolutely charming and makes scenes much easier to watch.
Unfortunately she’s starring opposite the least funny SNL graduate this side of Chris Kattan. Jimmy Fallon, who spent more time on that show cracking himself up than he did viewers, is a blank slate. Showing no signs of being a likable screen persona, his film career has all the potential of a snowball in August. Sandler’s presence is greatly missed.
Not helping matters any is the fact that the Red Sox took all the drama out of the film last October. Winning the World Series with the greatest comeback in baseball history made for enormously entertaining television, but here the whole experience is relegated to the backdrop of a dull love story. It’s hardly fair.
Brian Mulligan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.