Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This week: While David Wain rips into the conventions of the modern romantic comedy with They Came Together, we recommend a few unlikely gems of the genre.
Fever Pitch (2005)
Passion is a quality most people find attractive, but is there such a thing as too much of it? Anyone who’s ever been with a superfan of something—be it a sports team, or a time-consuming hobby, or (cough) some area of pop-culture interest—can attest to how thoroughly out of whack a passion can throw priorities. Fever Pitch, a 2005 romantic-comedy from the Farrelly brothers, shows uncommon insight into the challenges of dating a diehard. Drew Barrymore plays Lindsey, a corporate executive who falls head over heels for a sweet-natured schoolteacher. But there’s a catch to her perfect catch, and it’s that Ben (Jimmy Fallon) is still hopelessly hung up on his first love: the Boston Red Sox. And what seems at first like a slightly excessive pastime soon reveals itself to be a deep obsession, as Ben gradually shows Lindsey his true colors. (They’re red, white, and “midnight navy.”)
Fever Pitch sticks closely to the rom-com playbook, saddling both its leads with advice-dispensing entourages and building to a beat-the-clock climax that’s pure cornball convention. But within this crowd-pleasing framework, it also offers a surprisingly mature and resonant relationship story. The film is a remake of a 1997 Colin Firth vehicle, which itself was based on a series of autobiographical essays by Nick Hornby. Though the sport has been changed from soccer to baseball and the city from London to Boston, Fever Pitch preserves Hornby’s sincere interest in what makes a fanatic tick, taking Ben’s loyalty to the Sox—and his commitment to his “summer family,” huddling together behind the dugout—quite seriously. Lindsey, meanwhile, is never reduced to a buzzkill; she’s a good sport as long as she can be, until Ben starts pulling boneheaded moves like opting out of a romantic weekend in Paris because the Mariners are in town.
At a distance, Fever Pitch might look like a strictly work-for-hire effort from its sibling directors, who include nary a single gross-out gag. (There is some talk of vomit and shaved balls, but both remain off screen.) Nevertheless, the film is still vintage Farrellys, the brothers striking a typically sweet, humanistic tone and populating the margins of the movie with interesting, unglamorous bit players. Their greatest asset is the chemistry between the leads: Barrymore exhibits the kind of down-to-Earth charm that frequently gets wasted on Adam Sandler vehicles, while Fallon proves that he could have had a fine career in the genre, had late night not come calling. Their energy is instrumental to the rousing finale, though the Red Sox pitch in too: The final scenes, shot at actual 2004 games, had to be reworked when the team won their first series in 86 years, providing an unexpectedly jubilant backdrop to the love story. There’s nothing like several thousand cheering, celebrating fans to kick the feel-good vibe up a few notches.
Availability: Fever Pitch is available on DVD, which can be obtained from Netflix, and to rent or purchase through the major digital services.