The Farrelly Brothers allow themselves only one true Farrelly Brothers Moment in “Fever Pitch,” and that is when a character’s friends help him into the shower after a “lost weekend” and one of them begins attending far too zealously to the man’s personal hygiene. Apart from that, it’s a perfectly congenial PG sort of movie, exactly what 20th Century Fox wanted — which means I should amend my lead to say that Fox allows the brothers only one true Farrelly Brothers Moment, not that they allow themselves. Had they been in charge, and not just directors-for-hire, surely they’d have been more outrageous.
Which isn’t to say they’d necessarily have been funnier. The Farrellys, Bobby and Peter, remain lionized in some circles for “Dumb & Dumber” and in other circles for “There’s Something About Mary,” but both circles agree that their other output — “Kingpin,” “My, Myself & Irene,” “Osmosis Jones,” “Shallow Hal” and “Stuck on You” — has been hit-or-miss. “Fever Pitch” was not even written by them, but by the predictable jokemeisters Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel (frequent writers for Billy Crystal, if that tells you anything), based very, very loosely on Nick Hornby’s novel.
Consequently, it is a fairly average romantic comedy, complete with the third-act breakup, the montage of the main characters missing each other while a slow pop song plays on the soundtrack, and the reconciliation that occurs in a public place and inspires applause among the onlookers. That the cause for the breakup is the man’s fanatic devotion to the Red Sox does not, in itself, make the film wackier, more inventive or funnier than its rom-com sisters, and neither the screenwriters nor the Farrellys do much to make it so. For the first time, that personal-hygiene moment aside, the Farrelly Brothers have contented themselves to make a very ordinary movie.
Jimmy Fallon, still an unproven commodity in movies, plays Ben, the Red Sox devotee. He is a high school geometry teacher for a few hours on weekdays, but mostly his vocation is attending Sox games at Fenway Park, or watching them on television when they are away. He has not missed an inning in 11 years, though he has been a fan for 23, which makes you wonder what happened 11 years ago to make him miss one.
His obsession with the team has gotten in the way of his previous relationships, which is why he is now 30 and still unattached. He meets Lindsey (Drew Barrymore), a high-powered, ultra-busy graphic designer who is charmed by Ben’s non-hectic lifestyle and laid-back persona. Why, he doesn’t even own a cell phone! They fall in love during the off-season, which means she is in for a rude awakening come opening day.
Oh, she tries to stick with it. She goes to games with him and meets the people with season tickets next to his, who comprise his second family. But sometimes she brings her laptop with her, ’cause, you know, she’s so busy and stuff. And she doesn’t really “get” why his loves the Red Sox so much, especially when they’re always breaking his heart. He counters with the fact that, win or lose, they’re always there for him. When he goes to Fenway Park, the Sox always show up, too.
I am no fan of Barrymore and her brand of forced whimsy and adorability, and Fallon is not what you’d call an “actor” so much as he is a sketch performer who giggles a lot. But they have a certain charm together, one of the few rom-com pairs who actually seem like a real couple. The movie — often amusing, occasionally funny — rides on their friendly shoulders well enough to be, if nowhere near a homerun, at least a respectable single.
B- (1 hr., 43 min.; )