Friday Flicks: For Love of the Game

The offseason can be tough on baseball fans. Why not get your baseball fix through the Silver Screen? All offseason long, check out “Friday Flicks” at lunchtime for a baseball movie review. Want to suggest a movie for review? Comment below with the title.

Last week, I reviewed a documentary that was full of real life drama and illustrated a different side of baseball than fans usually see. Today’s flick is a movie you should rent and watch with your girlfriend.  There is baseball enough for you, including the tension of a game that means everything to a player’s life and career, and a love story she’ll find endearing, whether or not she is a baseball fan.

For Love of the Game (1999) features lovers Billy Chapel (Kevin Costner), a star baseball pitcher at the end of his career, and Jane Aubrey (Kelly Preston), a women’s magazine writer who has been Billy’s girlfriend of five years.  Billy is a 19-year veteran who has had the opportunity to live out his childhood dream, to pitch his entire career with his hometown Detroit Tigers.

Billy and Jane meet on a road trip when the Tigers are in New York to play the Yankees.  Their meeting is definitely cliché:  damsel in distress who doesn’t recognize baseball superstar that saves her from inconvenience and seems to sweep her off of her feet.  The two, of course, run into trouble as they navigate the difficulties of a long-distance relationship between two people with very complicated and very different lifestyles.  The love story is woven into a game at the end of the season between the Tigers, who are hoping to end a lackluster season as soon as possible, and the Yankees, who are fighting for their division.  The game also has special significance for Chapel, as he learned earlier that day that the team’s owner, Gary Wheeler, was in the process of selling the Tigers to a group that intended to trade Billy after the season.  Wheeler cares about Billy and urges him to consider retirement as a dignified way to end a strong career.

The game, which some of the Tigers viewed as meaningless, turns into the game of a lifetime when Chapel begins to throw perfect innings.  The tension mounts with each inning, in his relationship with Jane, as his relationships with teammates and opponents unfolds, and as the game inches toward history.

Is it a hit? I give it a double:  The baseball-centered story features enjoyable characters and a fairly predictable plot that manages to engage the audience in the drama of the characters and of the game.  It’s a great movie for a couple or a group of people where some want their baseball “fix” and others could take or leave the game, but just want an enjoyable story.  I recommend it, although I wouldn’t rush to put it at the top of your list.

Come back next Friday for a review of an early ’90s classic baseball flick about a rag-tag group of boys, a dog name Hercules, and the biggest “pickle” of their lives.

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