The Perfect Catch


Reviewed by: Scott Macdonald

When I heard that the Farrelly Brothers (There's Something About Mary) were adapting Nick Hornby's novel, Fever Pitch, I prayed that they'd learned from the mistakes of their previous efforts. The changing of sport from football to baseball didn't concern me in the least, since it was the compulsion and personalities that made the novel so successful.

Hornby's novel is a master class in relationships and rich human interaction and the Farellys have done it reasonable justice, however diluted by its screenwriters.

Lindsey Meeks (Drew Barrymore) is a high-powered businesswoman - involving numbers, kept cheerfully vague - and Ben (Jimmy Fallon) a mathematics teacher who seems to enjoy his relationship with his students. He is also a compulsive Red Sox fan - identified in the opening sequence as "pathetic creatures".

Ben and Lindsey meet when they organise a student field trip to her office. They choose to date, but disaster strikes for Lindsey. The scene has the only signature body-function Farrelly moment - but it's funny. Lindsey hurls up the lining of her stomach, thanks to a sudden bout of food poisoning, with Ben dryly commenting, "Hardly any chunkage". And it's off screen! (There's another extremely cheap, but hilarious gag concerning Ben in the shower.) Anyway, Ben gently nurses her, longingly and carefully and stays the night to be there if he needs her. Thus, a relationship starts.

The essence of romantic comedy is building bridges between the leads, their friends - each of them has friends we know and identify with - and ourselves. The Perfect Catch takes great pains to do such things, spending time and effort on the characters, with all their flaws and idiosyncrasies. Fallon has finally shown what he can do and becomes surprisingly likeable. By playing down his usual over-the-top silliness, he never seems anything other than completely passionate and sincere. Barrymore is equally charming, as the patient, thoughtful and yet easily hurt girlfriend. Demographic nurturing it may be, but the pair have wonderful physical and comic chemistry.

Halfway through the fall/break/happy plot, we're treated to a moment when Ben makes the choice of accompaning Lindsey to a party rather than going to the game. It is upon learning the result and subsequent mental anguish for both that we truly learn his tearing devotion, not just the ritual of harassing the UPS man and nosing the freshly-printed season tickets, like whisky connoisseurs, and mugging the camera for spring training. It's when Ben's utter obligation drives him to anger that they break up. Self-flagellation appears to be his answer, with compulsive rewinding of other Red Sox failures.

It is around this time that The Perfect Catch runs out of steam, the easy Hornby prose and emotionally entangled storylines take a back seat and we dive headlong into a mix of melodrama and schmaltz, although one moment has wonderful resonance - by treating a student as therapist, Ben gets advice that reminds us of the great lasagne epiphany that Silent Bob gave Dante in Clerks.

By appealing to rom-com aficionados, without the wit to back it up, the tepid blending of ideas and easily notable last-minute rewrites - the film really was rewritten when the Red Sox won the World Series, inconceivable, and the biggest sports upset of all time! - does nothing for continuity and screen scribes Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel fail to tackle the relationship problems at all, insisting that devotion is it's own reward.

This could have been another terrific Hornby adaptation, joining the ranks of High Fidelity and About A Boy. Alas, it is not. The performers and the Farrellys are let down by weak writing.

It's such a shame, but not even Farrelly hair gel could make this script stand to attention.

Reviewed on: 13 Aug 2005
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The Perfect Catch packshot
The Farrelly Brothers do Nick Hornby in an Americanisation of Fever Pitch.
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Keith Dudhnath **1/2

Director: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly

Writer: Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel, based on Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby

Starring: Drew Barrymore, Jimmy Fallon, Jack Kehler, Ione Skye, KaDee Strickland, Marissa Jaret Winoilur, Brett Murphy, Michael Rubenfeld, JoBeth Williams, Scott Severance, Jessamy Finet, Siobhan Fallon

Year: 2005

Runtime: 103 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US


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