review for For Love of the Game on AllMovie

For Love of the Game (1999)
by Karl Williams review

Despite an intriguing structure preserved from the novel by Michael Shaara, this romantic drama from director Sam Raimi is ponderous and too obviously designed to appeal to both male and female audience members with its sports-meets-love theme. Kevin Costner, always so sturdy and reliable in the role of a failed athletic hero, repeats the same routine here that he successfully patented in a slew of better Ron Shelton films such as Bull Durham (1988) and Tin Cup (1996). Missing from For Love of the Game, however, is Shelton's abiding sense of humor. As obsessed as he is with sport, Shelton never seems to forget that, be it basketball, baseball, or boxing, it's just a game. Raimi's film lacks the eloquence to equate the central activity at the center of his tale with the mystical journey of a lifetime; subsequently, the story feels flat and uninspired. Neither does the film work on the romantic level; too cutesy by at least half is the romance between Costner and female lead Kelly Preston, as their characters meet in an absurdly contrived fashion and speak in the sort of glib, pointed dialogue only employed in the movies. For Love of the Game looks the part of a meaningful treatise on the connection (if there is one) between the heart and pro baseball, but despite a meditative pace, it doesn't really have much on its mind.