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ISSUE 118 VOL 16 PUBLISHED 4/15/2005

This season, ditch 'Pitch'

By Jason Zencka
Contributing Writer

Friday, April 15, 2005

If you absolutely must watch the Farrelly brothers’ new baseball comedy “Fever Pitch,” do not watch it alone. It’s the kind of film that breathes better in a packed theater.

At 12:45 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon, in a practically empty movie house, the experience was something akin to watching a younger cousin lip-sync “Killer Queen” for you in your bedroom. Sure, it was funny at Thanksgiving with all the relatives around, but hasn’t the whole affair become a bit embarrassing?

“Fever Pitch” plays with the same kind of awkward sincerity. The Farrelly brothers, famed for the bathroom humor bedecking in such canonical pieces as “Dumb and Dumber” and “There’s Something About Mary,” have toned down their … er … wit, in favor of some equally indigestible lighthearted kitsch.

They try to tell the somewhat straight tale of Ben (Jimmy Fallon), a quietly goofy and kindhearted high school teacher who meets Lindsey Meeks (Drew Barrymore). Things go swimmingly until spring training begins and Lindsey discovers Ben is an overzealous Red Sox fan. This makes things difficult for them and for the audience – after all, they’ve made a whole boring movie about it.

The film is eventually less funny than previous Farrelly brothers films and even less funny than other Jimmy Fallon or Drew Barrymore movies. For those of you who weren’t keeping track, that’s actually less than funny: it’s dull.

“Fever Pitch” lacks the zany shamelessness of “There’s Something About Mary” and the star power of “Dumb and Dumber,” and it never comes up with anything of its own to give us.

Its humor, like pretty much all Farrelly brothers’ humor, lies in crowding the edges of the film with wacky non sequiturs: a character who has funny hair, a lady who gets hit in the head with a football, etc. Its romance is limp and predictable without being interested in its own clichés. It doesn’t even say anything all that interesting about baseball.

As movie stars go, Jimmy Fallon bears some resemblance to that lip-syncing younger cousin – kind of a ham, more cute than he is clever and at his most endearing when he’s all tangled up in his own silliness.

His most memorable moments as a cast member on “Saturday Night Live” involved him botching his lines and then giggling himself into the audiences’ good favor. In “Fever Pitch,” however, where he’s actually supposed to be charming, his smirking manboy exuberance seems lifeless. The film is based on a novel by Nic Hornby, whose usually unimpeachable wit has translated well to film before (“High Fidelity,” “About a Boy”), but somehow Fallon ends up spouting mangled and manifestly disastrous lines like “All this talk of waiting has made me not want to wait.” Fallon delivers this in a goofy accent of no particular distinction as Barrymore’s Lindsey croons.

As for Barrymore, she plays the ambitious, workaholic Lindsey with all the pathos and nuance of a decent child actress. No real friction or spark develops between the two leads, character development seems forced and the soundtrack is about as effective and subtle as duct tape.

It feels at times like the Farrelly brothers have fashioned this movie like you or I would fashion an outdoor grill – all the requisite parts are clamped together and has their fingers crossed that the whole damned thing doesn’t collapse. Well, in the Farrelly brothers’ defense, I suppose their makeshift grill succeeded. They made a movie. Good for them. I just wouldn’t recommend seeing it.

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