Donut Age: America's Donut Magazine


This weekend, we formally marked the beginning of summer by making our first trip of the season to the Judy Drive-in (in nearby Judy, KY). The Judy is one of the hidden treasures of this area, an authentic drive-in experience (it's been in continuous operation since 1952) plunked down pretty much in the middle of nothing. Making your first visit — becoming "Judified" — is something of a rite of initiation within our circle. We like to arrive early with a couple other families and establish a kind of campsite in the front row (lawn chairs, sleeping bags, coolers, the whole bit). The supplies are kind of a necessity, since making a visit is a significant commitment: the movies don't start until dark, so staying for both features means being out well past midnight during high summer. There's enough room to set up a portacrib, though, so our daughter made her first trip when she was under a month old. This weekend was our son's Judification.

The film selection at the Judy tends to be in the mainsteam-popular-but-not-blockbuster range. Sometimes they can be astoundingly bad (Hulk) and sometimes surprisingly good (Shrek 2), but since the actual films are only a portion of the overall experience, it's generally very enjoyable. This week was typical: Madagascar and Fever Pitch. Madagascar was passable: the commando penguins were consistently funny; the techno-rave lemurs were funny for a while; the rest tended to be jarringly loud and busy, and the "parent-oriented" humor and film-referencing was maybe overdone. No Shrek 2, but not awful either.

I was curious, but somewhat apprehensive about seeing Fever Pitch. Curious because it is adapted from Nick Hornby's debut memoir, and I like both Hornby's books and the movies they've turned into. Apprehensive because Hornby's book is about a British man's obsession with soccer (specifically Arsenal FC), and in the movie this has been Americanized into a man's obsession with baseball (specifically the Red Sox), a move that seriously stretches the concept of adaptation (there is, incidentally a 1997 British film based on the book, starring Colin Firth, which presumably hews more closely to the original). In addition, the film had to be re-worked during production last fall because the Sox had the audacity to actually win. And if I had known that the Farrelly brothers were directing, that would have alarmed me all the more.

Surprisingly, Fever Pitch manages to be Not Bad. There's a lot wrong with it: Drew Barrymore is utterly unconvincing as either a high-powered businesswoman or a math whiz. (If she's supposed to be such a math-head, who is dating a baseball-obsessed math teacher, why don't they have a single conversation about baseball stats? With two people like that it should be part of their foreplay!) The plot is predictable and the ending saccharine (it also contains a major realism gaffe: when fans run out on the field during a game, the TV networks immediately take the camera off the action so as not to provide even a glimmer of fame for the miscreant). Many of the supporting characters are irritating caricatures. Nevertheless, the movie somehow charms you into forgiving these failings and rooting for it in the end. Hell, even a self-described "bad motherfucker" like Outlaw Vern managed to get sucked in by it.

The film's success hinges, I think, on the lead character, Red Sox überfan Ben (played well by Jimmy Fallon). I haven't read Fever Pitch yet, so I can't be sure where Hornby's contributions to the character end and the adapters' Americanization of him begin, but I'd be willing to bet that most comes more or less directly from the original with only cosmetic alterations by Messrs. Farrelly and Co. The family resemblance between Ben and Hornby's other male protagonists, Rob Fleming (High Fidelity ) and Will Freeman (About a Boy), is strong. All three are basically likable but emotionally stunted guys ("lads" to use the Briticism) who are trying, somewhat reluctantly, to emerge from a state of suspended adolescence. In this respect, the baseball make-over is quite apt. Between Hornby's basic understanding of male obsessiveness, the adapters' understanding of baseball (and especially Red Sox) fandom, and Fallon's sympathetic performance, the end result rings remarkably true. As Vern puts it:

I liked this premise because I think most interesting people have some retarded shit they are into and if you're gonna be close to them you're just gonna have to accept it. For example, I'm gonna watch every single god damn Steven Seagal picture that ever comes out, I don't care how bad it is. And then I'm gonna tell you all the best parts, whether you want to hear it or not. That doesn't make me cool or uncool, that just makes me Vern.

So anyway, it was a very pleasant evening and even worth arriving home at 1:30am with a couple of cranky kids. I'm hoping to make another Judy trip or two this summer. If they get Fantastic Four, I am so there.