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The books of award-winning author Nick Hornby have tickled the funny bones and tugged the emotional heartstrings on these fair shores for years now. He first grabbed our attention with Fever Pitch, a semi-autobiographical novel about football and Arsenal. This he then followed up with the novels About a Boy and High Fidelity. So popular where these three books that they have since been turned into movies starring Colin Firth, Hugh Grant and John Cusack, the latter of which was responsible for bringing High Fidelity to the big screen, successfully relocating the story from England to the USA. And now, some five years later, the Yanks have tried it again, this time transporting Fever Pitch (or as it’s known over here The Perfect Catch) to the USA, and changing the football to baseball, but will it be another charmer, or will the story get lost in translation?

Perfect Catch (aka Fever Pitch), The

Feature


The film centres on Ben (Fallon), a Boston schoolteacher who falls for highly paid business consultant Lindsay Meeks (Barrymore) after a school Maths trip to the offices where Lindsay works. She is immediately drawn to his charm and quick wit, and the two slowly fall head over heels in love. But why slowly you ask? Well, Ben has a secret he is yet to reveal to Lindsay: his total and utter obsession with the Boston Red Sox baseball team. And this isn't a healthy obsession; this is total insanity. He's been to every game since he was seven; he's travelled the country just to see the team train, and owns every piece of merchandise the team has even had their name stamped on. Yes, he's a Sox loon, and it's this obsession that has cost him dear in love. So, the choice is Ben’s: his love for the Sox or his love for Lindsay?

I must admit I went into this movie with a great deal of hesitancy. The reason? The Farrelly Brothers, who make me slightly uneasy nowadays. How did it go so wrong for them? Having hit the big time in 1994 with one of the great comedies of all time, Dumb & Dumber, they have since failed to live up to the success of that very first outing, with only their re-teaming with Jim Carrey, Me, Myself and Irene coming anywhere close to rivalling their hilarious debut. But as directors the Farrelly's have found that their breed of gross out comedy is somewhat of a dead market, and the time has come for them to mature as filmmakers. And, if you look at their recent efforts, the emphasis has clearly been on a more down-to-earth and universal brand of humour. And here they take their biggest departure yet. Not that that's a bad thing mind you. In fact it's somewhat of a relief to see the brothers trying to mature as filmmakers, and this effort stands as an excellent stepping-stone for them, but I just hoped that they would have picked something a little less obvious.

Still, it's a worthwhile exercise for the Farrelly's, and they do bring their effervescent charm to the film, filling up the screen with warmth and colour, and perfectly capturing the heart and soul of the game of Baseball. And, they even indulge themselves once with a very funny vomiting scene on Lindsay and Ben's first ‘date’, which although may be slightly out of place, never upsets the balance of the film's romance, acting more of a useful prologue than a deterrent.

Perfect Catch (aka Fever Pitch), The
The romance element of the film of course is always going to be seen as clichéd and obvious, but screenwriters Babaloo Mandel and Lowell Ganz, the men behind Parenthood and City Slickers, keep our interests with some affecting set pieces (one scene in which Lindsay and Ben share a barbeque is particularly poignant) and funny one-liners, as well as fleshing out a tender if slightly awkward romance between the leads.

And what of the leads. Well let’s just say one half is excellent, the other though funny, seems like a fish out of water. Jimmy Fallon, best known for last years horrific Taxi remake and his regular status on Saturday Night Live, gets lost in this step up to leading romantic lead. He gets most of the jokes and quips throughout, but he lacks the charisma and comedic timing of, say, the aforementioned Cusack and Grant, both superb in their Hornby adaptations, and both of whom would have been the better, if more expensive choices in my mind. Still, he tries hard, and raises a few smiles along the way, and is never anything less than engaging.

But it’s Barrymore who's the star, and quite frankly the film would be miserable without her. She lights up the screen throughout, and radiates both her loveable cuteness and abilities as a gifted comedienne, just as she did in The Wedding Singer and Never Been Kissed, as well as showing intelligence and grace that helps lift the film above the ‘rom-com’ norm. The downside though is her on-screen romance with Fallon, which at best is lukewarm and limp. Sure, they enjoy some tender moments (the already mentioned barbeque scene, the final World Series scene), but at times their romance seems uneasy and awkward, with very little sparks flowing between them. It's a real shame, as everything else is nicely knitted together and rewarding.

Video


Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, The Perfect Catch is given a very good, if flawed presentation by Fox. From the film’s opening on the skyscrapers of the of USA, to the aforementioned barbeque scene, colour is wonderfully presented, with a flurry of boldness and warmth, beautifully running together with the tone of the movie, with blues, reds and greens predominate. However, there are a few traces of edge enhancements, particularly during the baseball scenes, and from time to time the colour, particularly blacks and browns, look saturated and weak. But, these quibbles are just that, and they should not affect your viewing pleasure too much.

Perfect Catch (aka Fever Pitch), The

Audio


Presented here in Dolby Digital 5.1, the film is blessed with an excellent transfer from those boys and girls at Fox. The five channels of the Dolby Digital are given an arduous workout, and combine brilliantly to bring the film to life. Dialogue is presented well, crisp and sharp, perfectly presenting Barrymore’s soft tones and Fallon’s broader pitch, as well as the light, orchestral score from Craig Armstrong, which while working well for the movie, lacks the affection and gusto of his previous scores for Moulin Rouge and Ray. But where the audio excels is though in bringing to life the hustle, bustle and muscle of the game of baseball. Everything from the crowd’s cheers, mumblings, or indeed shouts, to the players themselves as they smash, grab and chew their way through the ‘beautiful game’. The atmosphere is electric inside the stadium, most notable in the films finals scene when we watch a real live game unfold before us, and it’s presented here in all its glory perfectly.

Extras


The main draw in the feature stakes is the commentary by directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly. Sadly though, this one turns out to be a real shame. Having been so hilariously funny on their commentary for Me, Myself & Irene, I was hoping that they would repeat that feat here. Unfortunately, they fall flat this time, with none of the zest or exuberance that they seem to project whenever they appear on screen in interviews. In fact, it mirrors quite nicely the way they approached the movie: downbeat and unorthodox. There are a few tiny glimpses of their madcap manner, but none of which will stick with you for more than a few moments as they continue to pass the time before they can leave that little commentary booth.

Next up are thirteen deleted scenes, most of which are self explanatory by their titles, and are mainly short scenes and extensions of scenes already in the movie. They don’t do much to enhance the story, but they add a little in terms of the relationships of he characters, and contain a few funny one-liners from Fallon.

Perfect Catch (aka Fever Pitch), The
Next up is the alternate ending. I've never been a huge fan of these so called ‘alternate’ endings, so its not surprise for me to say that this new ending is pretty much the same as it stands at the end of the film, except that over the credits, the Red Sox World Series winning parade is shown, with some of the usual rambunctious shenanigans that goes on through the streets when the local team have been victorious. The typical gag-reel you find on most comedy DVD releases is included on here too, and thankfully this one does have some chuckles in it, mainly from Barrymore, proving herself as a fine comedienne between takes as well as on film.  
     
Next to the making-ofs, of which there are three on offer. The ‘Love Triangle’ is a quick featurette with snippets from interview with Barrymore, who talks about her character Lindsay, Lindsay’s relationship with Ben, as well the film’s story and themes, and how she helped get the movie to the screen.

‘Break the Curse’ is more focused on the directors and producers, with interviews with The Farrellys as they discuss how the World Series would affect the movie. The Red Sox hadn’t won the Series for a long, long time, so they seemed to be no problem. But as filming progressed, the Sox turned there season around, and managed nineteen wins in twenty, leading them to the World Series final, at which point the filmmakers said that they simply had to get to the final, and get their stars as close to the action as possible.

‘Making a Scene’ is another short feature, which describes how the crew and cast managed to capture the Red Sox winning the World Series. Just hours before the final, the directors, three producers, Barrymore and Fallon flew from Boston to St. Louis, without any filming equipment (the directors managed to convince Fox to let them use one of their cameras and cameraman who were there to film the game), or make-up for the actors, (Barrymore and Fallon had to do their own hair and make-up on a bus before they arrived at the stadium). It was real guerrilla filmmaking that thankfully worked out for the best.

There is the nice little trailer for the film, with the usual mix of comedic and romantic highlights. The interesting thing here is that there is no indication that it's a Farrelly Brothers movie. Very strange, particularly as most of their other films have ‘From the directors of There's Something about Mary’ plastered all over it. Maybe Fox were afraid that audiences wouldn't like the new Farrellys?

Also included is a short Fox promo featurette, which is not usual for their DVD releases, here focusing on the surprisingly engaging film In Her Shoes, with short interviews with stars Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette, Shirley Maclaine and director Curtis Hanson ( Wonder Boys, 8 Mile.)  

Perfect Catch (aka Fever Pitch), The

Overall


Despite its shortcomings, The Perfect Catch does exactly what it says on the tin: a sweet-natured romantic comedy with a few chuckles to keep you occupied. However, for fans of the Farrelly Brothers, this will disappoint, as they play it straight with none of the madcap, gross humour that made their earlier films such comic treasures. The DVD itself overall is slightly disappointing, with the flaccid set of extras the biggest let down. Still, if you want a movie to curl up with and watch without too much thinking required, this one ticks all the right boxes, and is well worth a go.


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