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OCTOBER 1999 | VOL. 3, NO. 10



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For Love of the Game
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Grading from A-F

Outside Providence Misdirected marketing aside, this Michael Corrente directed coming of age story by Peter Farrelly achieves a perfect balance of comic nuance, nostalgia and even real emotions. Inappropriately tabbed as the follow-up to the Farrelly brothers "There's Something About Mary", Corrente's work borrows nothing from the world of slap-stick comedy and bodily fluid jokes (although the main character's nickname is Dildo). Rather the film plays out a captivating story of discovery - both emotionally and physically - for a teenager from a broken home who must learn to survive at an upscale Connecticut prep school.

Replacing friends named "Drugs" with a beautiful and smart co-ed (played by Amy Smart), makes Tim Dunphy realize that there is more to life than just sitting on a water tower smoking dope. Corrente ("Federal Hill", "American Buffalo") is skilled at creating parallel worlds for his characters - no one is one-dimensional or easily pegged. Dunphy's father (Alex Baldwin) may refer to his eldest son as Dildo in public, but you can't help but realize that he is actually a decent man. In turn, you can't help but be moved by such a simple story that holds so much meaning. A-

AMERICAN PIE (R):
While slightly immature and crude, this year's boundary stretching toilet humor comedy does have its moments - though not as many as last summer's "There's Something About Mary". Centered around a done-before plot of four high school senior who pledge to lose there virginity at the prom, "American Pie" tackles everything in high school's magnified culture including sexual exploration, jock stereotypes, fragile insecurities and even the recklessness of self-gratification.

While director Paul Weitz too often relies on the obvious, and cliched, humor, he includes enough unexpected surprises to make the film worthwhile. The apple pie scene from which the title stems is irreverent yet pointed mocking the hyped up teen sex drive. Equally as risqué, an internet filming scheme gone awry provides the perfect backdrop for the conflicting inadequacies and desires of the main characters. B+

- Kevin Ridolfi, Tim Clifton






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  For Love of the Game

 
FOR LOVE OF THE GAME
Rating: C-

Starring Kevin Costner, Kelly Preston, John C. Rilley, Jena Malone. Written by Dana Stevens. Directed by Sam Raimi. Rated PG-13. Running Time: 137 minutes


TIM CLIFTON

"For Love of the Game" is a melodramatic film in almost every conceivable way: in its acting, its dialog and its music. Diabetics run a serious risk of going into insulin shock. And while the title certainly is truth in advertising, this story is particularly out of place in a time in the sports world where the biggest signing bonus is the true love. You just don't believe it for a second.

You could also refer to this as the final chapter in the Costner Baseball Trilogy, after the elegiac "Field of Dreams" and the spot on boisterousness of "Bull Durham". Both of these films are strong because of their core ideas and honesty about the game, both positive and negative. "For Love of the Game" suffers by comparison because it does the exact opposite, where the sport is essentially back story to the romance that is played out between Billy Chapel (Costner) a Detroit Tigers pitcher, and a sportswriter from New York (Kelly Preston) and where observations about the game are either stereotyped or cartoonish.

You could almost change the title to "For Love of the Costner" as we are treated to the simple but honest ball player trying to go out in style as he pitches the final game of his stellar career (in a bloated 137 minutes, no less). There is nothing worse when scriptwriting contains phrases that no one, absolutely no one, would ever say. A line of dialog such as "How do you like to be kissed?" would cause most women to run screaming from the table. It's the type of line that would never work in real life but supposedly comes over as sensitive and romantic in a film. It's the kind of line that begs the response "Don't you know how?"

Costner is appropriate for the role, he's the right age and shows the strain and weariness that comes from many years of trying to stay at top physical form. Critical to pulling off this story is the relationship between Costner and Preston, but it doesn't ring true. There's too much subtle posturing with conversations that only exist in soapy films, resulting in some unintentionally funny exchanges.

Suspension of disbelief is a part of enjoying a movie experience, but you also need some help. The real stunner about this film isn't how bad it is, but that it was directed by Sam Raimi who turned out the sharp edged "A Simple Plan" earlier this year. Raimi built his reputation on low budget films and the choice of a sudsy script and star vehicle doesn't play on the director's strengths.

Costner is a solid actor and effective director ("Dances with Wolves") and he has certainly sampled various roles to move beyond the white hot stardom he experienced for several years. "A Perfect World" is a good example, an outlaw on the run who befriends a small boy, but it went largely unnoticed by the public. The media attention on "Water World" and "The Postman" focused on budgets, but there's plenty of blame to go around, and while not classics, they aren't completely without merit. Costner's strengths as an actor is his reserve and laconic delivery which works in films that play up conflict, but melodramatic roles such as this only accentuate the vacuous quality of the story. This film strains for romanticism but ends up in sentimental hell.

Perhaps Costner should take a role in an independent film that will rejuvenate his career. It certainly won't happen by participating in this kind of mawkish enterprise.



TIM CLIFTON is Renaissance Online Magazine's staff movie reviewer.



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