7 May 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

With an all-star lineup that includes directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly, screenwriters Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel and trusty Drew Barrymore, you'd think they'd have no problem hitting one out of the megaplex ballpark.

But while Fever Pitch, an all-American take on the Nick Hornby novel and 1997 Colin Firth film about a soccer-obsessed British schoolteacher who finally must choose between his girlfriend and his beloved team, ultimately goes the distance, it gets the job done with a halfhearted bunt rather than a solid line drive.

A good part of the problem has to do with the fact that Drew and co-star Jimmy Fallon just don't have that easy chemistry of an Adam Sandler matchup, but the film's bigger hurdle has to do with overcoming bulky romantic comedy plot and character mechanics that keep tripping up the momentum.

While Barrymore's proven track record with the genre should ensure solid opening weekend attendance, Fallon, with only Taxi to his post-"SNL" credit, has yet to establish big-screen credibility.

The final take likely will fall considerably short of those Sandler-Barrymore movies, but just like the Bosox's momentous 2004 World Series victory, miracles can happen.

A career Red Sox fan, Fallon's Ben Wrightman knows from the agony of defeat, even though each year's arrival of spring training brings a fresh glimmer of hope.

But the schoolteacher whose apartment looks more like a Beantown sports bar, complete with Red Sox bedding and a catcher's mitt telephone, will have to put his loyalties to the test with the arrival of Lindsey Meeks (Barrymore), a workaholic business consultant who takes a shine to Ben during the off-season but isn't prepared to sleep with the team come April.

At some point Wrightman will have to make a decision that could cost him the season's tickets left to him by his late Uncle Carl (Lenny Clarke).

Having penned some of the most successful comedies of the past two decades, the team of Ganz & Mandel (Splash, Parenthood, A League of Their Own) know from the big laughs, but in turning the Hornby material into an old-fashioned Hollywood romantic comedy, some much-needed edge has been lost in translation.

A great deal of the script, the performances and the Farrelly brothers' kinder, gentler directing style leave a generic, heavily manufactured aftertaste. Unlike the musically obsessed characters in Hornby's High Fidelity, Ben's fierce fanaticism feels about as authentic as Astroturf.

Barrymore's character, meanwhile, hasn't been fleshed out enough to suggest exactly why she's so willing to compete with Fallon's true love in the first place.

In the end, the film still manages to take the audience-pleasing pennant, but given all the proven talent that went into it, Fever Pitch never manages to break a convincing sweat.

FEVER PITCH

20th Century Fox

Fox 2000 Pictures presents a Gil Netter/Flower Films/Wildgaze Films/Alan Greenspan production

Credits:

Directors: Peter Farrelly & Bobby Farrelly

Screenwriters: Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel

Based on the book by: Nick Hornby

Producers: Alan Greenspan, Amanda Posey, Gil Netter, Drew Barrymore, Nancy Juvonen, Bradley Thomas

Executive producers: Nick Hornby, David Evans, Marc S. Fischer

Director of photography: Matthew F. Leonetti

Production designer: Maher Ahmad

Editor: Alan Baumgarten

Costume designer: Sophie de Rakoff

Music: Craig Armstrong

Cast:

Lindsey Meeks: Drew Barrymore

Ben Wrightman: Jimmy Fallon

Uncle Carl: Lenny Clarke

Molly: Ione Skye

Sarah: Marissa Jaret Winokur

Doug Meeks: James B. Sikking

Maureen Meeks: Jobeth Williams

MPAA rating: PG-13

Running time: 101 minutes.


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