After Sin City kicked April into high gear by starting the month strong, a romantic sports comedy and a fast-paced adventure hope to dispel T.S. Eliot’s “cruelest month” notion once and for all.
By Kim Hollis
April 7, 2005
The foremost among the two is Fever Pitch, an ostensible remake of an earlier British movie, based on a novel by the magnificent Nick Hornby. That film told the story of an obsessive soccer fan (Colin Firth in a tender, funny performance) whose fanatical passion for professional team Arsenal threatened to be the undoing of a burgeoning serious relationship. Like the other movie versions of Hornby novels, High Fidelity and About a Boy, the British film is wonderfully adapted. It strikes a strong chord even for those who can’t stand the monotony of a nothing-nothing tie because it captures perfectly what it’s like to be an undying fan of a team that is seemingly destined to disappoint.
Now, the Farrelly brothers - who previously brought us such stuff as Dumb and Dumber, Stuck on You and of course, There’s Something About Mary – have Americanized the tale, which means that instead of soccer, we get baseball; the Red Sox replace Arsenal; and Firth makes way for…Jimmy Fallon. Keeping in mind that Fallon didn’t really convert his first major starring role in Taxi into anything special, the new Fever Pitch also has a trump card: Drew Barrymore. “Sure,” the producers seem to be saying, “the universe may loathe Jimmy Fallon, but that Drew Barrymore can pack ‘em in when it comes to rom-coms!” And they’re right to some degree, but if they were going to hire a Yankees fan like Fallon anyway, they might as well have just reunited her with Adam Sandler.
But I digress. The movie does happen to look generally funny, though reviews are mixed so far. Still, along with previews that should entice both sports fans and romantic comedy aficionados for whom the story might ring true, Fever Pitch is getting some strong reviews from people who count, including those guys with the thumbs and diehard Red Sox fan Stephen King. On the other hand, there are some Boston fans who feel as though the movie is taking advantage of the recent World Series win and also resent the presence of a detested Yankee lover in the lead role. Regardless, it’s a movie that is generating a substantial amount of discussion, and with an ultra-wide release on 3,267 screens, it’s bound to do brisk business at the box office. Given the wide demographic appeal (Fever Pitch is that rare romantic comedy that appeals to both men and women), an opening weekend of $22 million wouldn’t be surprising.
For those who prefer straight action to sports and romance, Sahara is vying for your attention. Based on a book by the popular novelist Clive Cussler, there have been some well-placed reviews that say the film is the best adventure movie since Raiders of the Lost Ark. That opinion is not universally shared, however, as Sahara currently sits at 50% fresh at RottenTomatoes, the review-collecting site.
Still, for movies like this one, the reviews hardly matter. What is important is that your trailers, previews and commercials are exciting and emphasize what people in certain…ahem…circles call the “money shot”. Remember a couple of years ago when The Mummy came out of seemingly nowhere and astonished people by opening huge? You can credit a lot of that to the outstanding ads that utilized that giant sand-enclosed being that was in pursuit of the movie’s heroes. Likewise, the monster wave in The Perfect Storm was mostly responsible for similar big box office. Sahara has no such “big effect” on which to hang its hat, and the star power isn’t going to take it far, either. I personally like Matthew McConaughey and Steve Zahn a great deal, but for this movie to get the widespread appeal it needs to do big business, they’re not going to be difference makers. Ultimately, it looks like just another cookie-cutter, by-the-numbers action adventure, which even with a wide release probably won’t mean more than an $11 million weekend.
Sin City performed above expectations last weekend, but even so, it behaved exactly like what it is: a comic movie. The gritty, gutsy film has excellent word-of-mouth (particularly in this lackluster movie year), but look for the first weekend drop to be fairly precipitous. That said, I really hope I’m wrong. Sin City is the kind of movie that deserves to be rewarded.