For Love of the Game

Directed by Sam Raimi
Starring: Kevin Costner, Kelly Preston, John C. Reilly.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief strong language and some sexuality.

Review by Matt Heffernan
September 17, 1999

Finding a good date movie can be an arduous task, since men and women usually have much different tastes. Director Sam Raimi makes his attempt by combining romance with baseball -- a little something for everybody.

Kevin Costner switches positions from the catcher he played in Bull Durham to Detroit pitcher Billy Chapel. Before he is about to pitch in the last game of the season, against the Yankees, the owner of the Tigers tells him that he is selling the team. In addition, Billy will be traded to San Francisco, or he can retire as a Tiger after this game. He must make this decision by the end of the game. Right after that, he meets Jane Aubrey (Kelly Preston), his girlfriend. They only see each other when he is in New York, but now she says that she is leaving him to take a job in London.

At the game, Tom starts flashing back to the past five years in which he has developed this unique relationship with Jane. But that's only while his team is at bat. While he is on the mound, he gets into "the zone", and none of the Yankees are getting on base. His last game for the Tigers, and possibly his last Major League game ever, could end up being a perfect one. Meanwhile, Jane's filght is delayed, and she can't help but watch the game at the airport, forcing her to think about her decision.

Raimi first made a name for himself with the Evil Dead movies, then showed his serious filmmaking abilities in A Simple Plan. Now he goes out on a limb with a romantic-comedy-drama-sports movie, with more than a little success. Costner must have been voted the actor "most likely to star in a baseball movie" by the Hollywood community. For Love of the Game, despite its merits, does not live up to the memories of Bull Durham and Field of Dreams. The key to those films was a strong supprting cast that could allow Costner to shine. John C. Reilly did a good job as the catcher, but Preston's performance just wasn't strong enough.

Writer Dana Stevens did show improvement with this screenplay over her last work, City of Angels. She does a good job of taking Michael Shaara's novel and making it work on the screen. I don't know how much of the script she took directly from the book, but she seems to have a good sense of comedy dialogue, along with being able to make a baseball game interesting. The audience I saw this with actually applauded when one of the players makes a crucial catch, preventing a home run that would have killed the perfect game.

Of course, Raimi had a lot to do with it, too. He has used his more action-oriented techniques to make this film really work. Somebody just should have told him that the film didn't have to have the same running length as an actual baseball game.

For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
For Love of the Game (1999)

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For Love of the Game (1999) -- VHS
For Love of the Game (1999) -- DVD
For Love of the Game, a novel by Michael Shaara -- Hardcover
For Love of the Game, a novel by Michael Shaara -- Paperback
For Love of the Game, a novel by Michael Shaara -- Audio Cassette (read by Jason Culp)
For Love of the Game: Soundtrack -- Compact Disc Home
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Review © 1999 Matt Heffernan