For Love of the Game (1999)

(On TV, June 2017) As discussed elsewhere, I’m not particularly taken by the links that a number of artists make between baseball and grander themes. I get that it’s an effective chord to strike for average Americans, but as it turns out, I’m Canadian—I’ll let you know when I see the Great Hockey Film. In the meantime, there’s For Love of the Game, which uses a pitcher’s last game as a structural element on which to tell us all about that pitcher’s life, loves and setbacks. Thanks to director Sam Raimi (here signing what looks like an atypical film), the device is somewhat effective. Not all the flashbacks are equally compelling, and the romantic story developed by the film suffers from a few serious cases of idiot plotting, but the overall concept is intriguing enough. Kevin Costner is his own usual stoic self as a pitcher about to throw his last few balls, with Kelly Preston and John C. Reilly providing support in different roles. Unfortunately, for all of the interest of the film’s structure, the plot it develops is generic to the point of being dull—for all of the subplots, the film doesn’t quite manage to deliver something that rises to the level of its premise. The result is still watchable enough, but For Love of the Game stops well short of fulfillment.

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