Volume 93, Issue x

Wednesday, March 18, 1999


Costner at home on field

Death in Vegas turns up a disappointing success

Miguel innovates classic Meringue

An idiot's guide to the idiot box

John Popper snaps and crackles

Costner at home on field

Photo by Ben Glass
IF ONLY BIG TICKET ACTORS MADE AS MUCH MONEY AS OVER THE HILL PITCHERS. Kevin Costner returns to the ballpark in For Love Of The Game.

By Tara Dermastja

Gazette Staff

If home runs are the true measure of a champion, then the latest sports flick to hit the box office is a grand slam.

Directed by Sam Raimi and based on the novel by Michael Shaara, For Love of the Game once again reunites Kevin Costner with the hot-dog-munching, beer-guzzling aura of baseball. The result is a film which manages to persuade even the most steadfast baseball haters that the game is worth watching and sometimes even beautiful.

The plot seems fairly simple. Star pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, 40 year-old Billy Chapel (Kevin Costner) has a decision to make – he can retire from the game and salvage a reputation which has been steadily rolling downhill, or keep pitching and face a possible trade to the Giants. Chapel is the type of all-star who little boys idolize and women swoon over.

While the baseball scenes are compelling, they do not compose the full bulk of the movie. Since not every audience can endure over two hours of fly balls and home runs, For Love Of The Game has the good sense to explore Chapel's life off the field as well. Dana Stevens' screenplay often ventures away from the game to focus on America's second favorite pastime - relationships.

For Love of the Game becomes "For Love of a Woman" by successfully examining relationships in the context of first encounters, dumb mistakes and second chances. Kelly Preston almost steals the show as Jane, the stubborn, beautiful journalist who doesn't like baseball but learns to love Billy. Costner and Preston click, avoiding the sometimes evident awkwardness of movie kisses and artificial love.

The film's realism is augmented by some very believable baseball scenes, of which Costner is the focal point. Most other actors would have turned the film into a comedy simply by stepping onto the pitcher's mound, but Costner knows the rules of the game and seems equally as comfortable with a baseball glove as he does with a script. Granted, the flashy sound effects and camera angles have been added, but Costner's talent as a ballplayer is still evident.

Adding to the cast and providing a needed comic edge is Gus (John Reilly), Billy's scruffy catcher and old friend who can't quite run as fast as he used to.

As with most films, there are some scenes in For Love of the Game which could have been left out. The classic "walk through New York while getting to know each other" routine wasn't needed. In addition, while young Jena Malone (Stepmom) is good as Preston's daughter, it's hard to imagine that she's a day over 14 as she sits in her college dorm room. Luckily, the pep talks, the baseball and the climactic five seconds of movie silence more than make up for the film's minor flaws.

Using smart wit and playing on the audience's wonderment of what a great moment in baseball would feel like, For Love of the Game proves that Costner can still turn out a fantastic baseball flick.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999