Fever Pitch (5/10)

by Tony Medley

The Farrelly Brothers have been responsible for some dumb, crude movies aimed at the lowest intellect possible, like “Dumb and Dumber” (1994) and “There’s Something About Mary” (1998) and “Shallow Hal” (2001). Now they are trying a straight romantic comedy based on the Boston Red Sox remarkable 2004 season.

Ben (Jimmy Fallon) is a died in the wool Red Sox fan with season tickets at Fenway Park behind the Sox dugout for 23 years. He sits with a bunch of other died in the wool fans, imbeciles you will only find in Hollywood movies. I was a died in the wool UCLA basketball fan and a 50-yard-line Los Angeles Rams season ticket holder. I saw every game both played, either in person or on television for away games. But the people with whom I sat were knowledgeable. They could discuss the game with intelligence. Ben’s seatmates are unlikable fools, more like the idiots you see on beer commercials. The writers don’t make things any better by continuing to perpetuate the myth that a financially troubled Harry Frazee, owner of the Red Sox in the winter of 1919-20, sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees to finance the Broadway play “No, No, Nanette.” There is nothing to support the allegation that Frazee was in financial trouble that winter, and several Boston newspapers supported dumping Ruth because he had become a pariah in the Red Sox clubhouse as well as a greedy lout demanding more and more money. In fact, when informed of the trade that winter (on a Los Angeles golf course) his first response was, “Tell Col. Ruppert (Yankee owner) I want more money.” Further, “No, No Nanette” didn’t appear on Broadway for another four years. It’s unlikely that Frazee used any of the $125,000 (plus a $200,000 loan) he received for Ruth for the play.

Lindsey Meeks (Drew Barrymore) is a 30-year-old rising corporate executive whose friends are all married. Ben and Lindsey meet and start an affair. Ben’s fanaticism for the Red Sox comes in between them. This is a formulaic story: boy meets girl, boy wins girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. The baseball is simply a McGuffin, a gimmick to throw a wrench into a love affair.

This is yet another of the legion of films Hollywood is making that makes light of marriage and sexual promiscuity. Lindsey and Ben are sleeping together without even the thought of marriage or commitment when she thinks she’s pregnant. She’s thrilled. She’s not worried that she’s not married. She’s just thrilled she might be pregnant. Score one more for Hollywood secularism. How many teenage girls will see this movie and be influenced that it’s no big deal to sleep around and get pregnant? Movie stars do it. They even do it in the movies. Why not me?

I found the first hour of this film excruciating. The Farrellys insert scenes that are simply reprehensible. In one, Lindsey gets hit flat on the forehead by a line drive foul ball. Neither Ben nor any of his dopey friends pay any attention to the fact that she’s knocked cold. They just go after the ball and are happy when one of them gets it. People have been killed by getting hit on the head by foul balls. This scene is just ludicrously unrealistic. Nobody is stupid enough to ignore someone who could have been seriously injured by a foul ball. It’s not funny.

In another, Lindsey and all her friends are working out at a gym hitting a punching bag, more women boxers. One gets mad at her friend and slugs her in the face without warning. She falls backwards and in a normal situation could easily hit her head on the ground causing serious injury even if the punch didn’t break her nose or jaw. Again, not funny, just irresponsible, leaving the idea in impressionable heads that you can sock someone in the face with no serious consequences. It’s too bad there are so many greedy filmmakers in Hollywood who make movies without a sense of responsibility to their audience and society.

The baseball scenes filmed at Fenway are very good. Filmed in 10 days, half of which were game days, in one scene they had to walk out onto the field and ask 37,000 fans to remain in their seats while the production filmed a scene that had Barrymore running across the field. Bobby Farrelly appealed to the fans’ goodwill by making a joke at the expense of the hated Yankees.

Lots of people will like this but I found it only moderately entertaining.

April 4, 2005