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For Love of the Game
1999 - PG-13 - 137 Mins.
Director: Sam Raimi
Producer: Armyan Bernstein, Amy Robinson
Written By: Dana Stevens
Starring: Kevin Costner, Kelly Preston, John C. Reilly, Jena Malone, J.K. Simmons, Brian Cox
Review by: Carl Langley
Sporting a double-faced story, For Love of the Game wanders into baseball brilliance then intermittently becomes sidetracked with a sappy love story that nearly ruins the entire movie itself. Those seeking out For Love of the Game for its baseball nature will not be disappointed. Mark my word: baseball aficionados will appreciate the true-to-life events that appear on screen. Those bobbing for the complete film or the irresistible love story will be sorely let down. Amazing how a movie can have moments of profound accuracy and also be prosaically numb.

For Love of the Game marks Kevin Costner’s third time stepping into the batter’s box when it comes to baseball related films. Even though he has yet to strike out, Costner came pretty close to returning to the bench with nothing to show this time around. His first baseball movie was the romantic comedy Bull Durham and was smashingly funny. Costner knocked one out of the park with his next at-bat, starring in the symbolizing Field of Dreams, a baseball religious motion picture most of America grew to love. Now it is the bottom of the ninth and with For Love of the Game, Costner appears to be losing his stamina. And it is presumably safe to say that Costner should hang up his spikes and retire with a good record – one of the two admirable tracks he has left for us (the other being behind the camera).

Here he plays Billy Chapel, an aging pitcher who has been buttoning down a Detroit Tigers jersey for nineteen years. One of the most respected pitchers around the league (think Greg Maddux), Chapel played a major role in the team’s 1984 World Series Championship and has outstanding career statistics. Unfortunately, every career must come to a close and Chapel can sense he is writing his final chapter.

Chapel has been told by the general manager that if he does not retire after a game versus the New York Yankees, he will be traded. Giving every ounce of energy he has and throwing his best stuff, Chapel begins to reminisce about his other true love, Jane Aubrey (Kelly Preston). He remembers vital occurrences in their relationship, ranging from when they first met to the day he severely cut his pitching hand and almost short-ended his career. As the innings fly by, everyone realizes that Chapel has not allowed a single baserunner and his chances of throwing the coveted perfect game are improving with every pitch.

The film’s director is Sam Raimi, who has developed a moderately cult persona with films like Evil Dead and Darkman. Confusing how a man of this nature would walk into unprecedented territory, Raimi does an exceedingly faithful job to America’s humbling game of baseball. More baffling still, however, are the bovine moments in romance that give off a routine feeling and has trouble maintaining the same amount of love in the relationship that is more pleasantly shows in the game. Point be taken, the maudlin love story diminishes the viewing experience.

Still, anyone who appreciates sports, especially baseball, and welcomes the triumphant, For Love of the Game is worth a look. The way Raimi gives respect to America’s Pasttime ultimately allows For Love of the Game a spot on my roster in my DVD collection.
Movie Guru Rating
Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not.
  3 out of 5 stars

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