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Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Updated: April 22, 6:42 AM ET
Down with a bad 'Fever'

By Bill Simmons
Page 2

Here's a new term for you: "Spork flick."

When a chick flick disguises itself as a sports movie ... that's a spork flick. "Bull Durham"? Spork flick. "Jerry Maguire," "Tin Cup" and "Love and Basketball"? Spork flicks. Heck, even "Rocky" could have been classified as a spork flick. And just for the record, I'm not against the concept. For instance, I think "Jerry Maguire" was one of the top 20 sports movies of all time (if only because of Rod Tidwell's character). So really, this isn't a bad thing. My wife loves chick flicks; I love sports movies. The spork flick, when done correctly, can keep both of us entertained.

Fever Pitch
Didn't we already see this skit on SNL? "Tommy, tell me you got that!"
Why am I telling you this? Because "Fever Pitch" billed itself as a funny spork flick ... but it's actually a straightforward chick flick. I found this out the hard way, dragging my father to a Sunday morning matinee at the Loews Boston Common two weekends ago. I tried to convince Dad to pay for two tickets for another movie – so we could sneak into "Pitch" without the Farrelly Brothers making money off us – but he steadfastly refused. He's the kind of guy who would stick 75 cents in a USA Today machine, then refuse to steal an extra newspaper (so we could both read a copy at breakfast) from that same machine on ambiguous moral grounds. I have never understood these people. Anyway, they weaseled $16 out of us. Practically blood money, for reasons I have explained numerous times over the past few weeks.

So yes, I was biased going in. But when you're sitting in a theater for two hours, you would always rather be wrong about a good movie than right about a bad one. Deep down, I wanted to be wrong. I wanted to enjoy myself.

I didn't enjoy myself.

Here's the plot for "Fever Pitch" in one sentence: Guy loves the Red Sox, meets Drew Barrymore, tries to love them both, nearly loses her because of the Sox, decides to give up his season tickets next to the Red Sox dugout because he loves her, she stops him just in time, and they get back together and end up making out on the field after the first Red Sox championship in 86 years. The end.

Even though "Pitch" was allegedly a comedy, I laughed a whopping total of four times in 90 minutes. Here were the times:

No. 1 -- The spring training scene when ESPN's own Steve Levy (who had an "I can't wait to tell Barry Melrose that I'm in a Farrelly Brothers movie!" glow about him) interviews a crazed Fallon and his Red Sox friends as a stunned Drew Barrymore watches on TV. That was genuinely funny.

No. 2 -- The scene when Barrymore says something like, "There's more to life than knowing that Schilling's pitching on Friday," and even though they're in a heated argument, Fallon HAS to correct her and say, "Actually, Pedro's pitching on Friday, Schilling's pitching on Saturday." I liked that. Any true sports fan wouldn't have been able to fight off the urge to correct her. Fifty more moments like that and we might have had a good movie.

No. 3 -- During the messy "We had no idea how to end this thing when the Sox actually won the World Series, so we got permission from MLB and sneaked Fallon and Barrymore on the field after Game 4 for absolutely no real reason, to the dismay of every Sox fan who had been waiting their entire life to see them win a World Series and had to see Barrymore and Fallon kissing within 60 seconds of the final out" montage at the very end, there's a brief shot of Curtis Leskanic turning away from the happy pig pile near the mound and high-fiving Fallon. I'm convinced that's why the team didn't ask him back this season.

No. 4 -- The scene when they show Stephen King throwing out the first pitch of a game at Fenway. In my opinion, bar none, this was the funniest scene of the movie. He made Doc Rivers look like Doc Gooden.

And that was it. Without spoiling too much of the movie, a few additional comments:

• The last 15 minutes were so freaking atrocious, it's almost beyond belief. Even the '64 Phillies finished better than this movie. I will never think of this movie without thinking of the last 15 minutes. Ever.

• I lived in Boston for 10 years after college ... not once did I meet a Sox fan who acted like Jimmy Fallon in this movie. I have absolutely no idea who he would have hung out with in Boston; and apparently, neither did the Farrellys – Fallon's four friends looked like they should have been working as baristas at a Starbucks. Where were Murph and Sully? Where were the accents? Why even have this movie in Boston?

Fever Pitch
The reason why you've never seen anyone like Fallon in Boston is because he doesn't exist.
• Speaking of Fallon, if you're going to cast a bad actor in a movie like this, hire Ian Ziering or something – at least give me some unintentional comedy. I didn't mind Barrymore as much, although she gets like 4.5 percent less attractive with every movie – by 2020, we're going to be in trouble. Watching them together, I found myself thinking things like, "Too bad Matt Damon was one Farrelly Brothers movie too late" and "Poor Jimmy is only 20 minutes away from breaking Paul Walker's record for 'Least Facial Expressions in One Movie'."

• The Farrellys seem like they're good guys, and they make a point of casting as many family members, celebrity friends and longtime buddies in their movies as possible. Which is fine. After pumping out "Dumb and Dumber," "Kingpin" and "There's Something About Mary" in rapid succession, they absolutely earned "Playing with the house's money" status for the rest of their careers. At the same time, none of these family members/celebrity friends/longtime buddies can actually act, so every scene that revolves around the fringe characters ends up being mind-blowingly bad. If they want to make home movies, God bless 'em. Just don't make me pay for them.

• Red Sox fans come off like self-parodies of the highest order. Fantastic. The Farrellys even perpetuated that "Curse of the Bambino" nonsense to the bitter end, including a scene when Fenway fans recapped the curse for Barrymore's character – which would have been the least realistic scene in the movie if it wasn't followed by scenes of Barrymore scalping tickets for Game 4 of the Yankee series in the eighth inning (impossible), falling 30 feet from the centerfield bleachers (and not getting hurt), then dodging security guards for 300 feet (with the TV cameras showing her, which would never happen), followed by the guards backing off (halting the eighth inning of a playoff game against the Yankees indefinitely, to nobody's dismay) so she could hash out her problems with Fallon (which they did). Yes, this happened.

• This was the kind of movie in which Fallon's character goes into a funk, so his friends come over (including the bald guy who played Stanford on "Sex and the City") and throw him in the shower, then Stanford shaves Fallon's scrotum as Fallon suddenly says, "Wait, are you shaving my b---s?" The kind of movie where Fallon – an allegedly over-the-top Sox fan who hasn't missed a home game in 11 years – happily attends a birthday party for one of Barrymore's friends on a Saturday night in September and doesn't check a Yankees-Sox score once. This is the kind of movie where Fallon – again, an allegedly over-the-top Sox fan – says the words, "The Red Sox haven't won a World Series in almost 100 years," as if any diehard Sox fan didn't know the EXACT number of years at all hours of the day.

There were dozens of little moments like that, all of them undermining the movie and pushing it toward no-question-about-it "Chick Flick" status (because only females would accept a movie this inane under the "I'll sit through anything as long as two people are falling in love" corollary). When it finally ended, my father quickly scurried off to hit a men's room. I lingered behind for a few seconds to make sure that there weren't any bonus scenes during the closing credits – just in case they showed Schilling's toast from the champagne celebration or something – then followed him at an adjoining urinal. And we were standing there, peeing in silence, until Dad finally said, "By the way, that sucked."

Then he flushed his urinal. In two seconds, he summed up the movie better than I could have summed it up in 2,500 words.

****

I couldn't shake the nagging feeling that the Sports Gal would like this movie ... you know, since it was a chick flick and all. Since my stepmother (Molly) was visiting her in Los Angeles, I convinced them to attend a Monday night screening. (I know, I know – more money for the Farrellys). Here were their startling reviews on speakerphone later that night:

– Sports Gal: "I loved it! Omigod, he WAS YOU. It was like watching a home movie of my life! You didn't love that movie? I can't believe you didn't love that movie!"

– Stepmom: "Billy, that was the funniest movie I've ever seen! You should sue them for royalties!"

– Me (horrified): "Wait, you thought Jimmy Fallon was like ME in that movie?"

– Sports Gal: "Omigod, he was just like you! Child of divorce, life revolves around the Red Sox ... "

– Stepmom: "His room looked just like your room in college!"

– Me: "Wait a second, I NEVER had Red Sox sheets."

– Stepmom: "Well, we loved it!"

– Me: "You didn't think the ending was ridiculous?"

– Sports Gal: "Are you kidding? That was the best movie I've seen in a long time, I can't wait until it comes out on DVD, I'm going to watch it 100 times!"

Now ...

Fever Pitch
Discussing feelings and resolving conflict while lying in bed. That's chick flick 101.
Since we're having a little girl within the next two or three weeks, I have spent an inordinate amount of time over the past few months re-evaluating my feelings toward women, as well as imagining every possible scenario involving my daughter. What if she ends up playing in the WNBA? What if she ends up as a Clippers cheerleader? What if she starts dating the 2024 equivalent of Kevin Federline or Colin Farrrell? Name a scenario and I'm prepared for it. I have always operated under the premise that women are somewhat crazy – mainly because of the hormones – and that at least most of them realize it. Fortunately, we have television programming now that reinforces my theory, as evidenced by every season of "The Bachelor."

As it turns out, I'm somewhat crazy, too. And why? BECAUSE FALLON'S CHARACTER IN "FEVER PITCH" REMINDED OTHER PEOPLE OF ME! What's worse, that a stereotypical character in a predictable chick flick made my wife say, "Wow, he's just like my husband!" Or that Jimmy Fallon played that same character? Seriously, where do I go from here? Should I leave the country? Should I resign from my column? In fact, I was ready to do one or more of these things until I remembered something: When women are watching a chick flick, the leaps of faith are 10 times more ridiculous than me thinking that Roy Hobbs' final home run would have made all the lights go out in the stadium at the end of "The Natural." That's the point of a chick flick. All realism gets thrown out the window.

For instance, in "My Best Friend's Wedding," Julia Roberts decides that she's in love with her best friend (played by Dermot Mulroney in a career-ending performance). Unfortunately, he's getting married that weekend. She shows up at the wedding and proceeds to sabotage it for four straight days, ruining the rehearsal dinner, messing with the dude's head and nearly causing them to call a $200,000 wedding off. At the last minute, after his fiancee (played by Cameron Diaz) practically has a nervous breakdown because she's so depressed by what's happening, Julia decides, "You know what? I'm backing off on this one, I was probably a little out of line." And the wedding goes off without a hitch, and she ends up dancing with Rupert Everett (who likes other men) as the closing credits roll.

You would think women would have been offended by this movie, right? Of course not. They loved it. "My Best Friend's Wedding" turned out to be one of the most successful films of 1997. Peruse any female's DVD collection and there's a 65 percent chance she owns it. And there's a good chance that these same women will also be purchasing "Fever Pitch," if only because the Farrellys nailed the 10 generic themes that invariably show up in any chick flick. Here they are:

1. You can't meet the man of your dreams in a bar or at a party. It only happens either if he randomly shows up in your office, if he made some sort of bet about you, if he saved your life or if you happen to be impersonating someone else at the time.

2. If you're approaching 30 and you're still single, it's only because you're working too hard, not because there's something wrong with you. Just make sure you find a potential husband as fast as possible, even if it means destroying someone else's life or committing some kind of crime.

3. In your search for love, always target schoolteachers, bartenders, widowers, or anyone who was once successful before hitting a stretch of bad luck. This way, when they finally turn their lives around or come into some money, they'll erroneously think that you were the reason.

4. If you're dating someone who is passionate about something, he will absolutely give that up for you because all men change once they fall in love. Especially if you have a nice apartment.

5. You can have only three friends: A smart friend who's pretty in a quirky way, a calculating beauty who's morally corrupt and an overweight girl who doesn't say much. You can only hang out with these people all at once. If there's anyone in your life who doesn't fit one of those three categories, get rid of them.

6. Your boyfriend's friends only get in the way. The sooner you can destroy them, the better.

Fever Pitch
Any male that gives up those tickets should be castrated (if he already hasn't been.)
7. If you become pregnant, don't worry – you won't actually have the baby. It's just a temporary dilemma so you can break up for a month and he'll realize that he can't live without you – mainly because you pushed away his friends and ruined his life.

8. If you're breaking up with the guy to prove a point, immediately find the best-looking guy in your office and invite him over to dinner, then hope the other guy shows up. When he shows up, he won't do anything vengeful like get drunk and hook up with the nearest bimbo. He'll simply stop shaving and showering until one of his friends goes over to his house to snap some sense into him.

9. When you finally get back together, make sure it happens in the goofiest place possible – whether it's a baseball stadium, the top of a skyscraper, the launching of a space shuttle or wherever.

10. Either you will end up living happily ever after, or you will find a deep friendship with a gay man that will end up being just as satisfying.

See, the Farrellys could have stuck to this recipe AND thrown in enough realistic sports nuances to achieve "Spork Flick" status. Instead, they force-fed us cliches and stereotypes, undermining the sports angle to the point that no red-blooded male could possibly take it seriously. I did feel like there was a good movie here somewhere – mainly because they were working off one of the best sports books ever – but they never ended up finding it. And now the whole "Guy has to choose between his favorite team and his girlfriend" angle has been killed for any future movie, which is the biggest crime of all. Well, other than two family members comparing me to a character played by Jimmy Fallon in a chick flick.

(Here's a news flash for you: If that was really me in the movie and I had season tickets right next to the Red Sox dugout, not only would I have never considered giving them up for a girl ... there's a 99.9 percent chance that I would have died single. And that, my friends, is the difference between a chick flick and real life.)

Final Grade: B-plus (as a chick flick), D-plus (as a movie).

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. His Sports Guy's World site is updated every day Monday through Friday.