For Love of the Game DVD

Celebrated Detroit Tigers pitcher Billy Chapel (Kevin Costner) is having the worst and best day of his life. The woman in his life is leaving him for a high-profile job in London. He’s just been informed by the club’s owner that the team has been sold, and he’s due to be traded to New York.


forloveofthegameAll this comes as Chapel is on track to pitch the best game of his life, a perfect game against New York. Surrounded by screaming New York fans, Chapel steps up to the plate for what might be his swan song. He has a lot on his mind, and his throwing elbow is giving him grief. Still, Chapel gives it his all “For Love of the Game.”

Call me sentimental (you’re sentimental) and a sucker for unabashedly romantic movies, but “For the Love of the Game” steps up to the plate and hits a home run. I found myself rooting for the characters both on and off the diamond, crossing my fingers and hoping that the film would emerge as an underdog tale and not a bittersweet lesson in life dynamics.

Kevin Costner and baseball make a great couple. From the cornfields in “Field of Dreams” to the romantic rivalry in “Bull Durham,” Costner is a natural. His characters seem genuinely in love with the game, and with the women who wait on the sidelines.

The romance in “For Love of the Game” is traditional at best, but the actors work overtime to make the love connection work. It helps that the film is directed by Sam Raimi, the cult director whose first mainstream film “A Simple Plan” proved he was capable of bigger and better things.

Raimi brings a lush, soft focus romantic edge to the baseball action that serves as a framework to the personal story of Chapel, a forty year old player who is at a crossroads in his life. It is easy to accept Costner as a ball player who has given his all to the game. When he stands on the mound during the final game and gazes at the clouds in the sky, he’s looking at more than formations. He’s looking into his future, which as the game begins, is just as cloudy.

“For the Love of the Game” begins eloquently enough with Chapel waiting in his luxurious hotel suite for someone to arrive. It is obvious from his preparations that everything has to be perfect. Candlelight dinner. Cold champagne. Mood lighting.

Chapel is waiting for long time girlfriend Jane Aubrey (Kelly Preston) to arrive, but it’s going to be a long wait. Before morning arrives, Chapel has finished off the champagne and is using the ice bucket to nurse his sore elbow.

The next morning Chapel learns in the following order that; (1) Team owner Michael Neeley (Brian Cox); (2) that the new owners want to trade him to New York; and (3) that Jane has accepted a job with her magazine in London, ending their five-year on-and-off romantic relationship.

That’s more than some people can take, but not Chapel, who bravely takes to the mound and begins pitching a perfect game. His current achievement is interspersed with flashbacks of the last five years, where his relationship with Jane is filled with more hits and misses than a whole season on baseball.

The film is at its best on the field, where Costner commands the screen with a character that is both likeable and admirable. As he stands there staring down the competition, he rattles off an amusing series of comments about each opponent. I especially liked the way filmmaker Raimi conveys the process of Chapel tuning out the crowd, creating an almost surreal environment.

One look at Costner’s statistics and its obvious that the actor is most comfortable in films dealing with sports. He has the look and build of an All-American, and an attitude that reflects a period in time that no longer exists except in our memories.

It’s easy to see why Preston’s character would be attracted to him even though she’s not a fan of the game. Preston is always a delight on the screen, and manages to overcome several mawkish moments with a genuine interest in her character and predicament. A testament to her talent comes when she takes some of the films most glaring cliches and infuses them with enough reality to make them vital.

Screenwriter Dana Stevens, working from the novella by Michael Shaara, does a decent job of making all of this matter. Stevens, whose last screenplay was “City of Angels,” knows how to get the most out of thin material, and makes “For Love of the Game” full-bodied and engaging.

The supporting characters are all interesting and admirable, from John C. Reilly’s pitcher who has seen better days, to Jena Malone as Jane’s teenage daughter who enjoys having a surrogate father around the house.

Even at its most predictable, “For Love of the Game” had me eating out its hand. It wasn’t a full course meal, but it more than filled me up emotionally, and the dessert was exceptional.

COMPLETE CHECK-UP

VISION: Good

check.gif (406 bytes) 2.35:1 Widescreen

check.gif (406 bytes) 16×9 Enhanced

For the most part, the digital transfer is excellent. Bright, bold colors leap out from the screen, while flesh tones are always flattering and lifelike. Blacks and shadows are the real problem. In some instances they don’t hold up well, allowing for some obvious graininess. Depth of field is okay, and so is attention to detail. You can almost pick out each and every spectator in the stands. The original print is pristine, allowing for clean images and whites. No real compression artifacts, but not the best possible effort.

HEARING: Good

check.gif (406 bytes) English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround

check.gif (406 bytes) French Dolby Digital 2.0

Good but not overwhelming sound field gets the job done but fails to put you in the middle of the action. Despite the fact that the film takes place in a baseball stadium, the sound reproduction doesn’t reflect that. The front and rear stereo separation is adequate, while the surround effects are there but not distinctive. Dialogue is strong and crisp, and musical cues are clean. There is some bass action, but not a lot, while the middle and high ends never waver.

ORAL: Good

check.gif (406 bytes) Closed Captions in English for the Hard of Hearing.

COORDINATION: Excellent

A nice roster of extras make up this Collector’s Edition:

check.gif (406 bytes) First and foremost, more than 22 minutes of deleted scenes (10 total) that add some depth and background to the film.

check.gif (406 bytes) Production featurette that takes us on location, including interviews with the cast and filmmakers.

check.gif (406 bytes) A great Interactive Trivia Game that rewards you with a special treat ob Babe Ruth.

check.gif (406 bytes) “The Perfect Game,” a text-based feature that lists perfect games achieved in real games.

check.gif (406 bytes) Theatrical trailers on “For Love Of The Game” and “The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps”

check.gif (406 bytes) Nice selection of production notes, plus cast & crew bios & filmographies.

check.gif (406 bytes) Handsome main and scene access menus.

check.gif (406 bytes) DVD-ROM features, including links to the Universal website for the film.

PROGNOSIS: Excellent

check.gif (406 bytes) Costner and the DVD hit a home run.

VITALS:

check.gif (406 bytes) $29.99/Rated PG-13/138m/Color/19 Chapter Stops/Keepcase

ATTENDING RESIDENT: John Larsen

PATIENT: FOR LOVE OF THE GAME

BIRTH DATE: 1999

HMO: Universal Studios Home Video



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