Love of the Game" on DVD
Not a hit
Sam Raimi may have
cut his cinematic teeth on horror/comedy films like "Army of Darkness,"
but he shows a sure directorial hand in what could have been an excessively
sugary dose of schmaltz.
"For Love of the Game"
stars Kevin Costner as Billy Chapel, an aging pitcher for the Detroit
Tigers. Chapel is a legend with the Tigers, his arm having propelled them
through nineteen seasons. He's getting old now, though, and the game has
changed into a big business/TV/free agency triumvirate he and his team
owner don't really understand - nor do they like it.
Worse, his personal
life has also fallen apart with the announcement from his estranged "main
squeeze" that she's leaving New York to take a job in London, England.
At Yankee Stadium
for the last game of the season, Chapel takes the mound in what could
very well be his last game ever. He knows his beloved team has been sold
and that the new owners' first act will be to trade him - so what's left
for this decent man and boy of summer, who never held out for zillions
of dollars but who always turned up at the plate "for love of the game?"
This is the backdrop
for Raimi's film, most of which is told through flashbacks that intrude
into Chapel's mind as he's about to pitch the game of his life - all while
contemplating his existence and his future.
Does he end up pitching
a perfect game, the first of his long career? Will his love, Jane (Kelly
Preston), eschew London and come back to him?
Inquiring minds want
to know - and they can probably figure out the answers about halfway through
the film, but you never, ever really know how things will play out until
they actually do.
Raimi has avoided
the temptation to turn "For Love of the Game" into saccharine, deftly
keeping the film's sweetness without letting it turn into plastic. You
get drawn into the plot and the characters over the course of the film's
two hours and eighteen minute running time (which never seems long, even
to someone who doesn't give a damn about baseball), learning more about
who they are and how they got to this pivotal moment in the early autumn
of the calendar and late autum of Chapel's career.
Costner and Preston
are both very good as the two ships who pass repeatedly over many nights
and you really learn to like both of them.
In the end, you come
away with an appreciation for these people - and, indeed, for the soul
of what baseball is supposed to be all about, but which is all too often
forgotten in this era of big money.
The DVD is in widescreen,
Dolby Digital 5.1 and though the picture quality appears a bit soft, this
is undoubtedly the director's intent. Audio quality is good, though not
spectacular, and there isn't a lot of surround in it (though there are
some nice thunder rolls), despite the fact that there's ample opportunity
to engulf the audience in the Yankee Stadium crowd.
Still, that's a pretty
Extras include a "Spotlight
on Location" (and these short features are always interesting), deleted
scenes, some DVD-ROM features (which are pretty inconsequential, as is
typical), and some baseball background on pitchers and perfect games.
There's also a trivia game and the theatrical trailer.
"For Love of the Game"
was a pleasant surprise, a "feel good movie" with some substance.
Who'd have thought
one movie could be both a guys' film (a baseball movie) and a chick flick
(a romance) at the same time - and carry it off so well?
For Love of the Game,
from Universal Home Video
138 minutes, Widescreen (2.35:1), Dolby Digital
Starring Kevin Costner, Kelly Preston, Jena Malone, John C. Reilly, Brian
Produced by Armyan Bernstein, Amy Robinson, Screenplay by Dana Stevens
Directed by Sam Raimi
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