The Perfect Catch review

Anyone who has offered a pep-talk to a defeated sports fan will understand the looks of horror received by Drew Barrymore's character when she delivers the time-honoured condolence, "It's only a game." Any football fan, meanwhile, will empathise with Fallon's Ben when he's forced to choose between a saucy weekend in Paris and seats at a vital game. Whether you're a sports supporter or a sporting widow(er), this rom-com offers two love stories - one a man's affair with a woman, the other his devotion to 28 sweaty men.

A `re-imagining' of Nick Hornby's novel following an Arsenal supporter's romantic life, this Yank Fever Pitch manages to change everything about the original material without losing its spirit. It's aided by the Farrellys' decision to crank down their trademark gross-out schtick to concentrate on smaller, knowing laughs: a scene in which Barrymore is slugged by a ball is chucklesome, but more shrewdly funny is the way Fallon cheers the opposition's bad luck before noticing that his girlfriend is out cold. And while delivering scenesof physical comedy, Fever Pitch also does old-fashioned sweetness as the lovebirds jape around in picturesque parks.

Fallon channels his inner adolescent to create a bloke who's trapped between playing the kid at ballgames and wanting to enjoy an adult relationship. He's helped by Barrymore pulling out her beguiling tricks - that biting lip smile, the pratfalls - to make Lindsey adorable, even when she's at her most one-dimensional.

It's a shame that the Hollywood `against-the-odds-triumph' sporting ethic takes over at the end, relegating the issues of compromise and love to a back seat. Admittedly the real-life Red Sox did achieve an amazing turnaround to win the World Series while the film was being made - but how many Liverpool fans have found their lives sorted out by that penalty shoot-out in Istanbul?

A genial date comedy that will divide audiences and genders on the prominence of sports in a relationship. Pick your sides now...

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