The chemistry needed to create a really winning romantic comedy is not unlike the chemistry needed to create a winning team. In 2004, the Boston Red Sox had it and reversed the curse to win the World Series. Sadly, the filmmakers who made “Fever Pitch” come up short in the chemistry department. Instead of concocting a peppy, charming confection, they’ve made a lumpy cup of chowder.
Their first and by far worst ingredient in this muddle in leading man Jimmy Fallon. The “Saturday Night Live” grad is simply not a leading man. He’s a lightweight puppy dog at best, and when paired with the delightful Drew Barrymore — who’s scored in this genre before (for instance, “The Wedding Singer”) — he doesn’t match up. It’s left to Drew to make this flick work, and unfortunately, romantic comedy requires that both stars connect, not just one or the other.
For those unfamiliar, “Fever Pitch” is the story of how a diehard Boston Red Sox fan (Fallon) meets the girl of his dreams (Barrymore) during the off-season when the Red Sox aren’t the only thing on his mind. When spring training commences and Fallon’s character gears up for the 162-game season to come, he confesses his addiction to the girl and hopes she can still love him despite his obsession. Well, she tries — really, she goes to the games, gets into the fun and appreciates his fanaticism — but ultimately, she asks him to grow up.
Will he be able to find the perfect balance between sports fan and lover man? That’s the question posed by the film, and the answer seems a shallow compromise. That’s assuming you stick with their story, because the ending becomes so intertwined with the real 2004 Red Sox beating the New York Yankees in the league championship series and then sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, that Barrymore and Fallon get lost in the shuffle.
Based on Nick Hornby’s novel — which was set in England and concerned a soccer fan — “Fever Pitch” had the right pedigree. After all, Hornby’s previous stories lead to the exceptional films “High Frequency” and “About A Boy.”
This time around, though, Hornby’s clever take on the modern male and romance is sunk in the casting. The failure of “Fever Pitch” falls at the feet of Fallon. Instead of hitting a homerun, the filmmakers struck out. If you’re looking for a fun evening, a date movie for you and your significant other, skip “Fever Pitch” and go directly to the video store. My recommendation? Try a classic like “Some Like It Hot” or “It Happened One Night.”