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Love of the Game (1999)
There are two rather narrow classes of people who will love the new Kevin
Costner baseball movie For the Love of The Game. The first is die-hard
baseball fans in non-English speaking, baseball-loving countries. These fans will be able
to enjoy Director Sam Raimi's excellent film techniques and exciting baseball story
without gagging at the laughable dialogue. This bodes well for the numbers in Japan,
Nicaragua, and possibly Cuba, if the blockade softens.
The second category is devoted love story weepers
for whom the game is won when boy-gets-girl, notwithstanding any cavernous
implausabilities along the way. This latter category of fans will not run the risk
of their jaws freezing wide open as they try to figure out what in the world Billy
(Costner) can possibly be seeing in Jane (Kelly Preston) that nobody else can see. Preston
plays a crying, complaining, whining, wimpy Meg Ryan without any humor. Billy beds Jane
the first afternoon and she then spends the rest of the movie telling him she must have
made a mistake. We agree, we agree.
As most of you know, we here at
culturevulture.net are baseball fans to the core. We can quote stats and figures with the
best. So we recognize a pop fly in the liniment when Vin Scully, long-time Dodger
announcer, is presented as the Voice of the Yankees. We cringe when Billy complains of a
sore arm but is not given any extra warmup pitches to test it. But hey, we say, it's only
a movie. Some of the baseball scenes are indeed realistic. Just as we believed Costner as
a catcher in Bull Durham, we believe him as a pitcher here. We would not be
disappointed to see him go all around the infield and outfield in his next seven baseball
movies. Why? Because we love baseball movies, that's why, even Kevin Costner
But For the Love of the Game is certainly
no Bull Durham, and it isn't even Field of Dreams. Both of those movies had
supporting casts: Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins in the first, James Earl Jones in the
second. In For the Good of the Game you get Costner and Preston, and that's
about it. The film has some important things to say about life, using the vehicle of an
aging pitcher who has saved his best game for last. But the plot points are so
predictable, and the love interest so impossibly off the mark that these messages may as
well be scribbled on home plate and then covered with a tarp.
Billy loves the game. He takes long, lingering
looks at his baseball glove. He flashes back to his dad teaching him to pitch: "just
hit the glove, son!" He is so good, and so simple, and so naive, and so,
so...Republican congressman that you know you ought to want to slug him. But you can't.
Because you know he's right. Baseball is a wonderful game. Still, you need more than one
player to win a championship, and more than one actor to make a movie, if that actor isn't
The music...oi. Bob Dylan?
Shaggy? Billy driving his Porsche and listening to Steely Dan? Who was the last pro
ball player you heard of who listened to Steely Dan? There is a particularly
egregious version of Paul Simon's Cool Water, played as Billy and Jane are falling
in love. The intention seems to have been to modernize the story, while simultaneously
lionizing the simple past. You can't have it both ways, or you end up with neither.
Director Sam Raimi (Evil Dead, Dead by Dawn)
employs interesting camera movements and two-shots. The sound effects are very effective,
especially the jet engine used whenever Billy throws that 40-year-old fast ball. But
overall this will be a far more interesting movie to watch and listen to if you are
challenged in English. Americans may prefer to wait until this movie is a mega-hit
in Japan and then rent the Japanese version.