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For Love of the Game (1999)

Kevin Costner stars and Kelly Preston co-stars in this romance/baseball yarn about a 20-year veteran and future Hall-of-Fame pitcher who has one last game to pitch with his current team, the Detroit Tigers. Billy Chapel, the character played by Kev, "is forced to reexamine his life" and has many decisions to make about baseball (he's been traded and the owner has sold the team) and about his NYC-based girlfriend, Jane Aubrey (Kelly Preston), who wants to leave him. John C. Reilly (Magnolia, Never Been Kissed) plays Gus Sinski, the tough, loyal and steadfast personal catcher. The movie is based on a fine best-selling novel by Michael Shaara and was directed by Sam Raimi, who has given us a number of horror/slash movies, some Xena and Hercules stuff, The Quick and the Dead and A Simple Plan.

For Love of the Game has Kev finally back where he belongs—in baseball. It's a great story, with a pretty good director at the helm. John C. Reilly plays a terrific sidekick. And it has the beautiful and intriguing Mrs. John Travolta as the love interest. If you think this is the recipe for a great movie, you're probably right. However, in this case you'd be wrong. This movie is the Godfather, Part III in the so-called Kevin Costner trilogy of baseball movies.

So why is it so bad? Since the Academy-Award-winning Dances with Wolves, Mr. Costner is now an "Artist" (with a capital "A") and his acting reeks of self-importance. The baseball scenes are pretty good, probably computer enhanced (thank you, Forrest Gump), but they lack the joy of the game of those scenes depicted in both Bull Durham and Field of Dreams. There is not one memorable scene (to include the predictable and contrived ending), nor is there one repeatable line of dialog ("if you build it..."). For Love of the Game is way too long (about 2+ hours) and the music is maudlin and boring—I felt like I was in Catholic elementary school again at Church, when mass was in Latin and seemed to last an eternity (no offense, Sister William Marie). OH! WAIT A MINUTE! NOW I GET IT! Kev's name in the movie is Chapel! Chapel, Church—it may have supposed to have been this way!

One added personal downside is the fact that the hero is a Detroit Tiger—I'm a Cardinal fan, still bitter over the 1968 World Series loss. And another annoying point—Vin Scully, who portrays himself as the play-by-play announcer, is the voice of the Dodgers—always was, always will be. The producers should have hired Ernie Harwell, the real voice of the Tigers.

My rating: A can of corn fly ball almost to the warning track. A ball hit that, with a lotta luck, was gonna get outta here.

Review by Tom Tilert