For the Love of the Game

Kevin Costner, Kelly Preston, John C. Reilly

Directed by Sam Raimi
Rolling Stone: star rating
5 0
Community: star rating
5 0 0
September 17, 1999

Hate mail poured in when I panned Kevin Costner's baseball weepie Field of Dreams. His astringent turn in Bull Durham is more my style. So I'm calling a foul on For Love of the Game, from a posthumously published novel by Civil War scholar Michael Shaara that screenwriter Dana Stevens drowns in soap bubbles.

Costner plays Billy Chapel, a star Detroit Tigers pitcher for nineteen years. Now the owner, Mr. Wheeler (Brian Cox), is selling the team to a corporation that wants to trade Billy. Wheeler urges him to retire, arguing that today's baseball stinks. "Baseball doesn't stink," Billy tells his boss. "It's a great game."

Costner delivers that sappy line with real sincerity, which extends to his scenes with the excellent John C. Reilly as Gus, Billy's longtime catcher. Out of the ballpark, the story derails as Billy hooks up with Jane Aubrey (Kelly Preston), a journalist raising a teenager, Heather (Jena Malone), whom she had at sixteen. "Mom never had time for a love story," Heather tells Billy, who tries to supply one. But after five years of neglect, Jane splits. And – thank you, Hollywood – she walks on the same day Billy steps on the mound for the last time and takes on the Yankees. As he strains for a perfect game, Billy's life with Jane flashes before him.

That's all, folks: a giant cornball flashback. Not a frame reflects the distinctively edgy touch that director Sam Raimi brought to films as diverse as The Evil Dead and A Simple Plan. Was Costner being a buttinsky? Is Hollywood in California? Game plays like an unholy union of The Natural and The Prince of Tides. Too bad. The baseball footage, superbly shot at Yankee Stadium by cinematographer John Bailey (Living Out Loud), sets the scene for a fastball that never comes. There's no heat in watching Billy pine and Jane whine. But guess what? Build a movie as a shrine to baseball and they will come. Suckers! Now you can send in that hate mail.

Movie Review Main Next


Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...


Sort by:
    Read More

    Movie Reviews

    More Reviews »
    Around the Web
    Powered By ZergNet
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.


    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories


    The Commodores | 1984

    The year after soul legends Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson died, songwriter Dennis Lambert asked members of the Commodores to give him a tape of ideas. "And the one from Walter Orange has this wonderful bass line," said co-writer Franne Golde. "Plus the lyric, 'Marvin, he was a friend of mine' ... Within 10 minutes, we had decided it should be something like a modern R&B version of 'Rock 'n' Roll Heaven,' and I just said, 'Nightshift.'" This tribute to the recently deceased musicians was the band's only hit without Lionel Richie, who had left for a solo career.

    More Song Stories entries »