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For Love of the Game Print E-mail
Saturday, 01 March 2008
ImageBased on the book by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Shaara, “For Love of the Game” tells the story of Billy Chapel (Kevin Costner), a baseball pitcher for the Detroit Tigers. He has had a 19-season career that should get him into the Hall of Fame, but those glory days are long behind him. The Tigers are in the bottom of the standings and Chapel’s 40-year-old arm is bothering him.

As the film opens, the team is in New York to play the Yankees, who are battling the Red Sox for the pennant at the close of the season. Beating the Tigers is just a formality. The night before the game, Chapel has dinner plans set with Jane (Kelly Preston); this appears to be a regular occurrence; however, he is stood up. When morning comes, he is very upset that she didn’t arrive.

The Tigers owner (Brian Cox) tells Chapel that he is selling the team. He’s burned out on what the game has become, doesn’t want to deal with it anymore, and his kids have no interest in the business. He tells Chapel the new owners want to trade him, and suggests heconsider retiring after the game, his last of the season.

Jane finally arrives at the hotel, but, she runs off to Central Park. Chapel follows her and learns she didn’t come last night because she didn’t know how to tell him that she is breaking up with him and taking a job as an editor in London. He wants to talk about their relationship after the game, but her plane is scheduled to leave before it ends.
All Chapel has left is this one game, and rather than roll over, he decides to give it everything he has left. Over the course of the game, he flashes back five years to when he and Jane first met. He helped her out on the side of the road and asked her to the game he was pitching later that day. They slept together in his hotel room that night. They began to see each other whenever he is in town. The relationship grew more intense, but they take their time becoming vulnerable to one another. When Chapel was on a road trip to Boston, Jane reveals she has a daughter Heather (Jena Malone), who has run away to that city to be with her father. However, the man does drugs, so Jane asked Chapel to escort her daughter home.

During a vacation to Aspen, Chapel severely cut his throwing hand on a table saw. The hospital couldn’t help him other than stopping the bleeding, so they flew him out by helicopter. He unintentionally revealed the state of their relationship when he told Jane that she needed to contact the team trainer, who was the most important person to him at that moment. During his rehab, he rebelled against everyone who said he should retire, particularly Jane. He told her to get her stuff out of his place. Some time later, he tried to reconnect with her, but she had started seeing someone else by then.

Before Chapel realizes it, the game is in the eighth inning. He is doing so well he’s got a perfect game going and only needs to get six more outs. His team has scored one run and let him know that they aren’t the last place team he’s been playing with all year, but led by him, there’s no better team in baseball at that moment. Chapel prays to God that he can go a little while longer without feeling any pain.

“For Love of the Game” has an interesting premise, but unfortunately the plot is very predictable, removing all suspense. Every plotline concludes by intending to leave the viewer feeling good. The hitter who’s been in a slump finally breaks through. The outfielder who made an embarrassing play makes a vital catch. Then, of course, there’s the romance--once Jane’s plane is delayed by engine trouble, it gives her a chance to see some of the game at the airport bar. The characters are all familiar as well. There isn’t anything unique or compelling about them to make the viewer care or remember them.

The baseball scenes look very authentic. Costner did the pitching himself. Minor league players were used, as were actual Major League Baseball umpires. Fans of the game should enjoy hearing Vin Scully call the game. While he may have been reading a script, he sounded no different than one of his brilliant broadcasts for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The video looks very good and director Sam Raimi and cinematographer John Bailey do a great job presenting the game by incorporating television camera and Jumbotron footage. However, there’s one scene when Chapel and Heather are on a plane where an unbelievable amount of dirt appears in the image.

The audio for the stadium scenes is where the sound team really shines by putting the viewer in the middle of the game. The score is too loud at times, overpowering dialogue in emotional moments.

The extras are the same from the previous Standard DVD release. “Spotlight on Location” features the cast and crew discussing making of the film and baseball. “The Perfect Game” is a set of graphics explaining what a perfect game is and provides information about the pitchers and the games in which they have thrown one. It is still accurate as of the conclusion of the 2007 MLB season. “Deleted Scenes” provides over 20 minutes of material, mostly extended scenes that show more about the characters. It’s unfortunate more couldn’t have been worked in. A storyline about the coach’s wife having cancer was cut from the film. If you answer all of the questions correctly during “On the Mound: A Trivia Game,” you will get an Easter Egg: the short black and white film from 1931 "Play Ball with Babe Ruth."

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