Wednesday, September 22, 1999

For Love of the Game

Posted By on Wed, Sep 22, 1999 at 12:00 AM

Far more horrifying than Evil Dead, Sam Raimi’s attempt at making a sports-oriented romance strikes out, forfeits and loses three times before its two hours and 10 minutes are up.

The script, based on a novel by Michael Shaara, is all goofy dialogue, unearned personal victories and relentless clichés that don’t even leave room for good acting. The storyline is a lackluster set of midlife crises that don’t quite live up to the stadium organ music. Billy Chapel (Kevin Costner) is a rugged, aging Detroit Tigers pitcher who finds the woman of his dreams – a bright-eyed beauty magazine writer, Jane Aubrey (Kelly Preston) – when her rental car stalls on a busy road near Manhattan. Billy catches a glimpse of her in a leopard print dress and hooded sweatshirt and pulls over to help. The rest, as they say, is baseball history.

Billy develops a relationship with Jane, sitting her in the "friends box" with the team wives at a game (their first date). Just to create a struggle, he falls in love with her instantly, only to push her away with his wounded pitching arm. But at least he has his timing right, as he conveniently regains a sense of his emotional needs on the cusp of retirement.

From the one-night stand turned lifetime love to AstroTurf insights on matters of the heart, For Love of the Game can’t seem to get away from the obvious outcomes. Even when the crowd is muffled and blurred by special effects so Billy can "activate the mechanism" of focused, legendary pitching, the baseball hero character never gains the viewer’s empathy. That could be partly due to the movie’s problem with shifting emotional gears. The eventful plot constantly threatens to lead to a climactic moment, only to slip back down the hill and remind us that breath-holding suspense only leaves a viewer blue in the face and without fulfillment.

The macho athlete on the road and the doe-eyed single mom who waits for his love affair with the pitcher’s mound to end are almost as hard to take as the perfect fastballs Billy puts across the plate to set the whole world cheering. Unfortunately, that cheering part can only take place within – never outside of – this long, uninspired movie.

Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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