Legendary Detroit Tigers pitcher Billy Chapel (Kevin Costner) has always been better at baseball than at love. Just ask Jane (Kelly Preston), his on-again, off-again girlfriend. At the end of a disappointing season, just before what may be the last professional game of his life, Jane tells Billy she's leaving him. Now, with his career and his love life in the balance, Billy battles against his physical and emotional limits as he plays the game of his life. And now with every pitch, Billy comes closer to making the most important decision of his life. The suspense doesn't end until the last ball is thrown in this heartwarming drama about love, life and the perfect game.
Billy Chapel (Kevin Costner) is having a bad day. His girlfriend Jane (Kelly Preston, stunning as ever) says she's leaving, and his boss (Brian Cox) says he's selling the business and ace employee Billy may be out of job. Sounds like business as usual for an old-fashioned veteran. However, the business is baseball and for Billy Chapel, the 40-year old former all-star for the Detroit Tigers, it means his career--and his life--is at a crossroads.
Although it is no Bull Durham, For Love of the Game finds a solid and very believable role for Costner. The film is based on Michael Shaara's (The Killer Angels) stream-of-consciousness novel (the rough manuscript was found after his death 1988). The entire film takes place on Billy's day on the mound against the Yankees, a meaningless late-season game for the Tigers, but everything for Billy. In flashbacks, he lingers over his long relationship with Jane and his baseball career (from World Series heroism to a career-threatening injury). His one viable link to the game at hand is his catcher, played winningly by John C. Reilly. Costner, like Chapel, is looking for one more great performance, but the film is too simplistic and loopy at times to resonate. The love story has an extra helping of cuteness, and legendary baseball announcer Vin Scully nearly takes on a leading role, waxing grandiloquent. It's no grand slam, but a solid double. --Doug Thomas