For Love of the Game – 2 stars

Baseball season is upon us, so a review of a Sam Raimi baseball movie (?) is apropos.  Raimi, whose credits include three Evil Dead movies, three Spiderman movies, and Drag Me to Hell, proves a strange choice to helm a love story-via-flashback, as an aging starter (Kevin Costner) thinks on his love life while trying to pitch a no-hitter.

I am no Costner-hater.  He is limited but does what he does well – affable, with a flash of anger and occasional stoicism.  Get him outside his comfort zone (Robin Hood, JFK, 13 Days) and you got problems.  But he was a fine, goofy golfer in Tin Cup and as the sweet but violent and repressed killer in Open Range.  Here, he’s Tin Cup but replaces goofy with taciturn. 

Costner is not the problem.  In fact, his time on the mound is compelling.  But when he gets to thinking about that woman of his – Kelly Preston (wife of John Travolta, poor thing) – things go to pot.  Preston is thin, harpy and jittery, and her pitch is, “you need to settle down with serious people like me instead of living the life of a little boy.”  Her case is not strong.  Even though she has a nice daughter (Jenna Malone), it does not seem conceivable that a good-time, easygoing jock like Costner would be enticed by her invitation.  And thus, the movie is undone (and at 2 hours and 17 minutes, very trying).      

Postcript:  this is supposed to be a baseball movie, and while I understand that athletes get injured in the off-season performing everyday tasks, Raimi has Costner slicing his hand on a router.  A pitcher making $15 million a year is not working in the shed with his Black and Decker (hell, he is likely contractually prohibited from self-gratification).

The film also has the manager putting guys up in the bullpen while Costner, who is at the end of his career, IS PITCHING A PERFECT GAME for a team no longer in the pennant race!

Absurd.

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