Combustible Celluloid
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With: Kevin Costner, Kelly Preston, John C. Reilly, Jena Malone, Brian Cox, Vin Scully, Steve Lyons, J.K. Simmons, Michael Papajohn, William Newman, Bill E. Rogers, Bob Sheppard, Daniel Dae Kim, Greer Barnes, Larry Joshua, Ted Raimi
Written by: Dana Stevens, based on a novel by Michael Shaara
Directed by: Sam Raimi
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief strong language and some sexuality
Running Time: 137
Date: 06/13/2018

For Love of the Game (1999)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Tales Pitches

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I love Sam Raimi and I love baseball, but I was surprised to discover that Raimi's For Love of the Game (1999) is more of a weepy melodrama than a sports film, more "love" than "game." Kevin Costner stars as veteran Detroit Tigers pitcher Billy Chapel, now forty and considering the news that owner Gary Wheeler (Brian Cox) is selling the team; Billy's contract will likely not be renewed under the new owners, so perhaps it's time to retire? At the same time, his girlfriend Jane (Kelly Preston) stood him up for a date and has informed him that she's moving away. So the story is centered on the mound, in a game against the Yankees, while Billy ponders all this. He flashes back to his first meeting with Jane, their growing relationship, meeting her daughter (a striking young Jena Malone), and his own celebrity. Slowly, over the course of several innings, it becomes apparent that Billy is pitching a perfect game. For baseball fans, this stuff is exciting, especially given Billy's special relationship with sad-sack catcher Gus Sinski (John C. Reilly); he talks to himself and chooses each pitch as if it were an epic poem. But this is a long film (2 hours and 18 minutes), and most of it is dedicated to the goopy relationship stuff, which is absolutely routine and static, showing nothing of Raimi's usually kinetic style of filmmaking. Even a career-threatening accident — Billy getting his pitching hand caught in a bandsaw! — is tastefully sidestepped. (Only a small role by Raimi's brother Ted indicates that he's behind the camera at all.) Yet as it finished up, I found that the movie crossed home plate and won me over. Legendary Dodgers announcer Vin Scully appears as himself.

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