The more elegant Bobby and Peter Farrelly’s films have become, the less money they’ve managed to rake in at the box office. That’s probably because the Farrellys are growing up faster than the audiences that tended to their first few features. “From the directors of There’s Something About Mary” simply doesn’t promise the same thing anymore: Audiences know this (see Stuck on You‘s poor box office performance for proof), and so does Fox, which is why the Farrelly name is so hard to find on advertisements for Fever Pitch. The studio is undoubtedly trying to protect its bottom line, but we should be thankful that the brothers are still being allowed to make films at all. Based on Nick Hornby’s autobiographical book of the same name, Fever Pitch is somewhat mundane, at least by the Farrellys’ typically high-concept (and high-strung) standards, but that’s not to say the material is innocuous. The film doesn’t actualize some cartoon world or scenario but a real one with real people with real problems—that everyone talks and cracks jokes just like you and me is not just the icing on the cake but part of the film’s contemporary mantra. Fever Pitch tells the story of a Boston schoolteacher (Jimmy Fallon) who falls for a business consultant (Drew Barrymore) who’s unaware that he lives, eats, and sleeps the Red Sox. What’s most charming about the film is not the way Ben and Lindsey work to accommodate each other but the way their romance is shaped by their specific cultural moment. I have no vested interest in baseball, or any sport for that matter, but I must admit that I’ve never before seen a film that so succinctly conveys the allure of sports as a shared emotional experience for a community of people. For Ben’s friends, baseball is part of their identities—they go to Red Sox games in much the same way families come together for Thanksgiving dinner (when Ben brings Lindsay to the games, the clan looks at her like a clueless date their brother has brought home for the holidays). The push-pull chaos of Ben and Lindsey’s love affair is finely drawn, as is the disconnect between the film’s rich and working class characters. If Ben’s friends are so hard on Lindsey it’s only because they fear she might patronize their sport from a position of privilege. In the end, Fever Pitch is not just some comedy about two people meeting each other halfway, but something much greater: a statement about the wheeling and dealing of a cultural tradition. It’s interesting, then, that in making a film about people giving up too soon on love and selling-out their identities, the Farrellys have inadvertently called attention to the way audiences have given up on them. Fever Pitch may not be a homerun but it’s as reliable as Monday Night Football.
Color saturation is a little sketchy on this Fever Pitch DVD. Skin tones are off at times, suggesting they were darkened to accentuate black levels, most egregious during an interior scene in the office Drew Barrymore's character works at (her black dress is beyond gooey-without any folds or wrinkles visible, it's as if the dress was painted on using magic marker). Other than that, the print is spotless. And though the Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track is strong but not great: Dialogue is crystal clear throughout, but during the same office scene mentioned above, dynamic range is poor as Barrymore's character moves from the background of the shot to the foreground. But with most of the characters parked and cracking wise in the foreground for most of the film's running time, it's not a problem that repeats itself very often.
Bobby Farrelly's voice could wake the dead-it's so curiously high-pitched, it makes an otherwise banal commentary track seem tolerable. Brothers Bobby and Peter talk at length about how gorgeous and talented their actors are, which ones worked with them before (and how many times), and how JoBeth Williams is a MILF and how Ione Sky is a beauty and how the actresses haven't changed much since The Big Chill and Say Anything, respectively. It's fun stuff, but scarcely deep, except when they talk about how Barrymore kept it together on the set after the death of her father. Also available here: 14 deleted scenes, a funny gag reel (damn you Barrymore and all the cute shit that you do!), two blink-and-you'll-miss featurettes ("Love Triangle" and "Break the Curse"), a "Making the Scene" featurette courtesy of the Fox Movie Channel that elaborates on how the producers were able to bring the cast and crew to the World Series during filming, a theatrical trailer, a bunch of DVD recommendations, and an Inside Look at In Her Shoes starring Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette.
Come for Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore but stay for the Farrelly brothers' signature brand of romantic humanism.