For Love Of The Game

Covering one of the few areas of culture in which men are not only allowed but encouraged to display emotion, movies dealing with sports have it easy in some respects, getting away with more mushy stuff than usual without alienating their core audience. For Love Of The Game stretches this cushion to the breaking point, however. Directed by Sam Raimi from a novel by Michael Shaara, For Love Of The Game stars baseball-movie favorite Kevin Costner as an aging Detroit Tigers pitcher who, during a meaningless late-season outing, begins to pitch what could be a perfect game, over the course of which he reflects upon his life, particularly an on-again/off-again relationship with fashion writer Kelly Preston. It's a promising setup for a movie that continually lets it down. Raimi throws all his good stuff into Love's game scenes, and though the outcome of these sequences is the very definition of the word "overdetermined," he still makes them exciting. (Still, Raimi's not above throwing in sepia-toned flashbacks to scenes of Costner playing ball with his father as a child.) Elsewhere, For Love Of The Game seems lost, as one overlong melodramatic interlude follows another, each more predictable than the entirely predictable game itself. Nearly every scene not set in a ballpark is dull and badly handled, the stuff of standard romantic drama at its least inspired. That's a shame given that Raimi's marvelous A Simple Plan proved just how good he can be when stripped of the stylistic trickery of his Evil Dead films. Costner, Preston, and the always-enjoyable John C. Reilly are all fine, but the best performance may come from veteran sportscaster Vin Scully. Though he plays himself, Scully brings all the drama and urgency a good sportscaster should to a film that sorely needs it. With an air of likability about it and a handful of great moments, it's hard not to root for Raimi's film, but in the end, it's akin to placing your faith in a team destined to lose every time it really counts.

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