Fever Pitch, etc.


Caught a press screening of the Farrelly brothers’ remake of Fever Pitch this morning.

In a nutshell, the film reminded me of how Jimmy Fallon started out on Saturday Night Live as something of an Adam Sandler wanna-be; and how a couple of Sandler’s best movies are the ones in which he has co-starred with Drew Barrymore, namely The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates (my first impressions); and how one of Sandler’s more recent disappointments (namely Anger Management, which did at least have one of the funniest teasers ever) climaxed at a baseball game. But Jimmy Fallon ain’t no Adam Sandler; love him or hate him, Sandler has a certain presence onscreen that Fallon, so far, does not have.

Still, unlike some romantic comedies, which start strong and then lose all their spirit as they grind through the final-reel contrivances of separation and reconciliation etc., Fever Pitch actually seems to get better, if anything, in its final moments; at any rate, I thought Fallon’s performance became more emotionally convincing as he had to deal with his various heartbreaks, and I found that I actually wanted these characters to get back together, whereas the couples in a number of other films of this sort have left me cold by that point.

And this just may be the most un-Farrelly-like of the Farrelly brothers’ movies to date. (Just for the record, I am a huge fan of Osmosis Jones — it made my top ten — and I admired Stuck on You, but I don’t care much for the other films of theirs that I have seen.) There is no real gross-out humour in this film (except for a scene involving vomit that takes place entirely offscreen, and even the sound effects are kept relatively subtle!), and no obvious physical deformities on either man or beast, either — though there is just a wee, wee bit of humour in which someone gets up close and personal with an animal (when Fallon brushes a dog’s teeth), and even that is so mild you could easily forget it.

This film, incidentally, is based on a novel by Nick Hornby — High Fidelity, About a Boy (my review) — that was previously filmed in 1997 with Colin Firth as a soccer, not baseball, fanatic. I have not taken in either of this film’s predecessors, so I cannot say how it compares. But I wonder if the Hornby influence is partly what kept the Farrellys’ baser instincts reigned in this time.

On a thematic level, BTW, it was interesting to hear the subject of “control” come up on a couple of key occasions — the idea being that one of the things that draws Fallon’s character to baseball is the way it gives him an opportunity to surrender to something and to be part of something that is completely outside his control. I believe he even says it is “good for the soul” to be involved in something like this. And part of what both he and the Barrymore character have to learn is how to relinquish a degree of that control within their own relationship — meaning, in Fallon’s case, that he must relinquish control of his adherence to something that supposedly represents a lack of control to him.

Let’s put it this way. Fallon cannot control the game, obviously. But he can, and does, exercise control over the access that certain other individuals have to that game (in one scene, he makes his friends compete for tickets by dancing in front of him and each other); this is a form of control that he may need to relinquish. And paradoxically, he seemingly cannot control his own obsession with the game; and so, this is a form of control, i.e. self-control, that he actually needs to develop.

Ai-yi-yi, that’s more than I had intended to write on this film already. Turning to other matters, on the ride home from the film, I was reading George Jonas’s column on the Pope in today’s National Post, and came across this paragraph:

While John Paul II preferred engagement to confrontation, he never confused engagement with appeasement. Reconciliation in his vocabulary didn’t translate into attempting to reconcile good with evil. He forgave sinners, not sin.

Engagement, not confrontation or appeasement. I and many of the other Christian film critics and film buffs that I know often talk about “engaging” the culture, instead of merely “confronting” it a la the so-called “culture wars”. But we do sometimes run the risk of letting the pendulum swing too far the other way. “Engaging” the culture does not necessarily mean “appeasing” it or, to use a word that is probably used more frequently in these discussions, “accommodating” it or giving in to it. It is not enough to simply baptize, as it were, films here or there. We need to “engage” with films and exercise a form of discernment and try to sort out that which is worthy of praise from that which is not.

I may just be preaching to the choir, there, but that one sentence in Jonas’s article helped to keep this issue alive, for me, and it helped me to see this issue from just a slightly different angle.

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his film column, which won multiple awards from the Evangelical Press Association, the Canadian Church Press and the Fellowship of Christian Newspapers, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) and Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005).

  • Trent

    Fallon as an Adam Sandler-esque SNLer? Have you not looked deep into his face and waited for him to cry out “Schwing”, or “Groovy, baby, yeah.”

    I say that only knowing Fallon from a couple brief glimpses on SNL and from watching previews and teasers for this film. But the first few seconds of watching the trailer, I thought it was Mike Meyers. Don’t know his humour style, but the physical resemblence is more Meyers.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07395937367596387523 Peter T Chattaway

    I think the Sandler influence is definitely there in Jimmy’s songwriting and guitar playing. His humour style isn’t really in Mike Myers’ league, though; while Fallon is a great impressionist, he doesn’t have the arch, ironic, pomo, anglophilic style that Myers has. (Interesting you should mention Myers, BTW, since I talked to his brother Paul, who is now one of the local critics in town, briefly after the screening.)

  • Matt Page

    i’ve only seen parts of the film, but I have read the book, and I’m very surprised anyone could really remake it about Baseball. This might sound like cultural snobbery, but actually its for totally different reasons. The reason the book was so powerful was the perspective it brought on the two biggest blackspots on English soccer in the 80s – The tradegies at Heysel stadium and Hillsborough. Those really blew me away and I guess they may have been absent from the original film, but you certainly couldn’t take 2 events which caused the deaths of alomst 150 people and then make them about baseball – I mean that would be a farelly-esque sick sense of humour.

    So I guess they excluded those incidents did they? Werer they in the Firth film?

    Matt

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07395937367596387523 Peter T Chattaway

    Matt, I haven’t seen the Firth film, so I couldn’t say.

    But suffice to say that the Farrellys’ film is about fans of the Boston Red Sox, and it was made during the year when the Boston Red Sox just happened to break the 75-year-old “Curse of the Bambino”. So it ends up being a much more triumphant sort of film than I imagine any film inspired by the soccer hooligan tragedies could ever be.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16341671232418325693 Josh

    Just for the record, it was an 86 year old curse.

    I still can’t decide if it was colossally good luck or colossally bad luck that the Farrelly brothers just happened to make their movie the same year the Red Sox bucked an 86-year trend. I’m leaning towards good luck though because the effect on the movie itself is probably unknowable, but the effect on box office receipts will certainly favor the Farrellys (at least in my neck of the woods.)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07395937367596387523 Peter T Chattaway

    Ah, right, an 86-year curse.

    I used to be good at math.

    And my Oma, who was born in 1915 (three years before the curse began in 1918) turned 90 just over a month ago.

    So I have no excuse for getting this datum wrong. I guess this is just another sign that I’m getting old! :/

  • Matt Page

    so the sports event is fictional as well then? (sota)? Another deviation from the novel.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15729167937433295927 Geosomin

    As a huge Hornby fan I really don’t see how Fever Pitch could be made into a romantic comedy …it just doesn’t seem to be remotely like the film you described (haven’t seen the film, just read the book). After getting angry seeing the movie based on About a Boy , which although had a lot of good faithfullness to the book characters actually changes the major event in the book (apparently they thought the death of Kurt Cobain was too dated to use as a plot point in a modern movie). But then, adaptation of a book can be done right – I mean High Fidelity went to the big screen in a way that made me smile and appreciate both it and the book more. I simply don’t see why when a book is put to film and a major MAJOR part of it can be changed that the title can be the same…there should be “loosely based on the novel by ***”, or “inspired by***” or even a “dreamt about this after reading ***” clause they have to use. It’d keep me from mumbling so much.

    *mumble muuble*


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X