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Fever Pitch

There are two types of people: those with an active inner eight-year old, and those without. These two types often fall along gender lines, and have to try desperately to understand each other. Now they have the perfect date movie. "Fever Pitch" is about an obsessed baseball fan and the woman who tries to love him. If you could care less about baseball, try substituting your own addiction.

We open with a funny looking kid named Ben at his first Red Sox game. Fenway Park becomes like a church to him. "Careful, kid," says his Uncle Carl, "they'll break your heart." The boy has yet to learn about the Curse of the Bambino, and the curious masochism of the Red Sox fan.

We then meet grown-up Ben, played by Jimmy Fallon. He's a grade school science teacher taking his class to meet a businesswoman in her corporate habitat. The woman is Lindsay Meeks, Drew Barrymore. On a dare from the kids, Ben asks her out. Of course she turns him down.

But Lindsay thinks about him all day. She's been frustrated in love because she always dates herself. This guy is different. Her friends warn her, though: why is he still single? They tell Lindsay the story of a woman who, like Bluebeard's wife, looked in her boyfriend's closet. She found a Hefty bag filled with all the nail and hair clippings from his whole life. Somewhere in his closet, Ben must be hiding a bag of hair.

Boy, is he ever. At first, Lindsay finds Ben's passion for the Red Sox attractive. The sex is great (maybe because he thinks about baseball). But then the insane extent of his obsession reveals itself. When she's most vulnerable, he blows her off for the Red Sox. "Where do you draw the line?" she demands. "Grandma, please don't die, the Sox are in the playoffs?"

"Fever Pitch" was directed by the Farrelly brothers, who made "There's Something About Mary". They're well employed to make a movie about an overgrown kid, and they dial back the gross-out humor. The dialogue is by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Manel, so "Fever Pitch" often sounds like a sitcom. Yet the story comes from a novel by Nick Hornby. His ideas are an edifice beneath the froth.

The movie plays best to baseball fans, of which I emphatically am not. But I'm reminded of the time my father in-law caught me playing my Nintendo GameBoy all day. Dripping with derision, he said, "There's a reason they don't call it a GameMan."

The only difference between passion and addiction is who's choosing the word. How do you sacrifice for a relationship without selling yourself out? "Fever Pitch" incisively goes to the difficult balance we must strike in ourselves, and with each other. Ben and Lindsay's chances are exactly as good as a seven run rally in the bottom of the ninth.

"Fever Pitch" is playing at Showplace East. This and other theater and music reviews are available online at Reviewing movies for wfiu, this is Peter Noble-Kuchera.

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