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Reverse the Curse

When it premiered at Tribeca last year, David Duchovny’s “Reverse the Curse” was titled “Bucky F*cking Dent,” which is a title that would have at least given this remarkably lifeless film a bit of personality. It’s also the title of the book, also by Duchovny, on which this maudlin film is based. It's a story about baseball and father-son relationships that doesn’t understand either, content to use fandom and a terminal diagnosis in cheap, manipulative ways. Duchovny the director never bothers to ground his melodrama in something that feels real, missing the target on the period in which it’s set and an honest understanding of the people who live and die on the success and failure of their favorite teams.

Set in 1978 - although it never really feels like it outside of Jimmy Carter clips and some questionable fashion choices - "Reverse the Curse" is the story of Ted (Logan Marshall-Green), a writer who pays the bills as a peanut vendor at Yankee Stadium even though his pop Marty (Duchovny) is a lifelong fan of the New York baseball team’s rival, the Boston Red Sox. As anyone with even a passing knowledge of baseball knows, the Red Sox were reportedly cursed when Babe Ruth left them to go to the Yankees, leading to a championship drought that lasted multiple generations. They didn’t win the World Series from 1918 to 2004, so “Reverse the Curse” takes place right in the heart of that torture for Red Sox fans everywhere.

In fact, Marty is so attached to his team that it impacts his declining health. Struck down with a terminal cancer diagnosis, Ted notices that pop has better days when the Red Sox win, so he sets about on a scheme to basically lie to the old man, replacing the box scores in his daily paper with winning ones and even getting Marty’s buddies to help fake storms – hose on roof, metal to mimic thunder – so dad will think a loss was merely a rainout. While Ted loosely comes to terms with his relationship with his father in a manner that feels half-hearted at best, he also forms a relationship with Marty’s “Death Specialist,” a charming woman named Marianna (Stephanie Beatriz). Can Ted keep Marty around long enough to finally see the curse reversed during the notorious playoff stretch of 1978? And maybe even fall in love at the same time?

It's hard to tell someone who has dedicated as much of himself to a project as Duchovny did here – writing the book, screenplay, and directing – that he’s not right for the role, but that probably should have happened. Not only does Duchovny, an eternally youthful looking performer, just not come off as old enough to really sell the history of this part, he just doesn’t have the kind of everyman gravity that a dying Red Sox fan needs. Marshall-Green is also miscast, but it’s Beatriz who frustrates most; the underrated “Encanto” star struggles to push through the melodrama of her character to find something grounded. She succeeds more than anyone in giving the film a solid foundation, but one wishes it was a part of a project that didn’t waste her work.

Besides a few funny scenes and Beatriz’s work, there’s too little truth in “Reverse the Curse.” It may not seem like that big of a deal given that this isn’t really a baseball movie, but it’s a story about fandom of the sport that doesn’t seem to know much about it or be made by people who love it. There’s a superficiality to this story of sports and dads that feels almost exploitative in the way it uses both to pull strings instead of illuminating anything about character or humanity that feels true. 

How so many people have lived and died around their favorite teams is a topic that should invoke more passion than the surprisingly soulless film seems interested in doing. It’s partially because Duchovny’s style has always been more aloof than engaged, which works in the right material, but not here. There’s nothing aloof about almost 90 years of sports heartbreak. Trust me. I’ve been down that road. I’m not convinced anyone who made this film has.

Brian Tallerico

Brian Tallerico is the Managing Editor of RogerEbert.com, and also covers television, film, Blu-ray, and video games. He is also a writer for Vulture, The Playlist, The New York Times, and GQ, and the President of the Chicago Film Critics Association.

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Film Credits

Reverse the Curse movie poster

Reverse the Curse (2024)

105 minutes

Cast

Logan Marshall-Green as Ted Fullilove

David Duchovny as Marty Fullilove

Stephanie Beatriz as Mariana

Daphne Rubin-Vega as Eva

Santo Fazio as Shticker

Director

Writer

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