The only thing surprising about this completely conventional big studio date movie is that it comes from the joyfully outrageous Farrelly brothers (There’s Something About Mary, Shallow Hal) and the literary but widely-read Nick Hornby. The Hollywood studio de-flavorizing machine has toned them down and flattened them out and the result is perfectly enjoyable but perfectly forgettable.
Hornby’s autobiographical novel is about a guy who crossed the line from fan to fanatic back in childhood. The book and the original movie of the same name are about a teacher in England who is passionately committed to a soccer team with a heartbreaking record. In this version, Ben Wrightman (Jimmy Fallon) — note meaningful last name — is a high school teacher who happily explains his priorities on ESPN: The Red Sox, sex, and breathing.
But Lindsay Meeks (Drew Barrymore) — no idea what that last name is supposed to signify — doesn’t meet that guy. She meets “winter guy,” a sweetheart of a beau who takes tender care of her when she has food poisoning and reminds her that there’s more to life than her job. By the time he has to explain why he can’t go to her parents’ party because he has to be at spring training, she already likes him enough to ask herself whether she can live with “summer guy” for half the year.
This is not a HA-HA movie. It is a chuckle/awww/chuckle/awwwwwww movie. Fallon and Barrymore are adorable and seem to get a genuine kick out of each other. We know where this will all end up. The only surprise in the movie is the one everyone already found out about when the Sox won the World Series (thus requiring the original script to be rewritten with an even happier happy ending). On the way there are some distractions — some are pretty funny, like the brief scene where Ben decides which of his friends get to use his sensational seats in Fenway Park, but most are a complete waste of time like the scenes with Lindsay’s friends and family. This gives it a dragged-out feeling, like the movie has gone into extra innings.
Parents should know that the movie includes some strong and crude language, including at least three jokes about male sexual organs. There are sexual references and non-explicit sexual situations including (spoiler alert) a pregnancy scare. Characters drink (Ben tells Lindsay one thing he likes about her is that she drinks) and (briefly) smoke.
Families who see this movie should talk about the fine line between being a fan and being a fanatic. They should discuss the ways that caring deeply about a team, a star, a movie, or a video game, can make people feel like they are part of something, especially when they share those feelings with friends. How were Lindsay’s feelings about her job like Ben’s feelings about the Red Sox? Why is it important to care about something you can’t control?
Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy some baseball movie classics like Field of Dreams and It Happens Every Spring. They will also enjoy comparing it to the original Fever Pitch, based on Nick Hornby’s autobiographical novel about his obsession with soccer, as well as Hornby’s other books and the movies based on them, About a Boy and High Fidelity. And they will enjoy Woman of the Year, in which sportswriter Spencer Tracy teaches political columnist Katharine Hepburn the joys of baseball in the first of their nine films together.