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Stuck in the Infield 

Strike one. Even though this is billed as a film by the Farrelly brothers -- still best known for There's Something About Mary (although their best film remains Kingpin -- it just doesn't fit in with their oeuvre). It doesn't have that freewheeling feeling of dipping into areas of bad taste that their fans have grown to love and expect.

Strike two. Standing on its own, as a film, it's pretty much your standard run-of-the-mill romantic comedy -- literally one of those boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl kind of things.

Strike thr ... OK, there won't be a complete strikeout here, because there are some funny, goofy, good-hearted moments to be enjoyed. So let's go with --

Foul tip. Based on the autobiographical novel by British writer Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About a Boy) about a hardcore soccer fan who meets a woman who doesn't know the first thing about the game, it was already made into a film in 1997, starring Colin Firth and Ruth Gemmell. Same story, different sport. The book was a hit. The film wasn't received very well in England and never opened in the States. That should have given the filmmakers or at least the folks at Fox some pause. (Like, maybe this just won't transfer to the screen.)

Well, at least they had the right idea of changing it to the American pastime -- and by utter dumb luck, they picked the right fairy tale baseball season to make the film. No one could ever have been so lucky as the Farrellys when they chose their cherished Red Sox as the ever-losing team (a plot device right out of the book) as the film's subject.

In fact, because they finished shooting the film before the World Series last year, they had to go back for re-shoots after the Sox sent their 86-year curse packing.

Among the many problems with Fever Pitch, there's Drew Barrymore's overacting -- along the lines of shaking her head up and down or back and forth with practically every utterance, especially in the early going (although she proves to be a good sport when the subject of her talking out of the side of her mouth is brought up). But Jimmy Fallon, perhaps in an attempt to get viewers to forget that he starred in the awful Taxi last year, is quite good and mostly low-key as Ben, a Sox fan extraordinaire since the age of 7. (When it comes to being in awe of the game, you see, Ben has pretty much stayed that age. Ben is a respected and popular school teacher who is so consumed by baseball that he most likely hasn't even bothered to think about women much. Naturally, he meets Barrymore's Lindsey, a hard-working go-getter who's in line for a big promotion at her agency.

So Ben's got posters and photos of current and past Red Sox players all over his apartment, Red Sox towels in his bathroom, a recreation of the famous "Green Monster" -- Fenway Park's outfield wall -- in his living room. And he's got great season tickets that were willed to him, which he shares with friends. Meanwhile, she doesn't even know the meanings of the terms "spring training" or "foul ball."

Not what you would call a match made in heaven.

So with two stories being played out -- one about the ball team that can't possibly win and one about the cute couple -- the film goes on, in fits and starts, to present funny stuff, schmaltzy stuff, a bit of baseball action (although that's really only done in small spurts of highlights when Ben goes to the games, sometimes with Lindsey, sometimes with one of his pals) and a lot of filler.

Good ingredients include a less-than-spectacular first date that results in a unique scene about brushing a dog's teeth, an almost reverential filming of Fenway Park, and an out-of-the-blue, over-the-top, very funny, very Farrelly-esque shower sequence that finally, thank goodness, drives the film into areas of questionable taste, if even for just a minute.

Weaknesses include an uncomfortable, completely unnecessary and cliched segment about a pregnancy that brings the film to a grinding halt, and just too much yo-yoing about Ben and Lindsey having problems, solving them, having problems, solving them. Yawn.

As in every Farrelly movie, there's an abundance of good pratfalls and sight gags, and a number of verbal jokes that fall flat. The film comes equipped with a crowd-pleasing ending for baseball fans (who already know how it's going to end) and for romantics (who will not be disappointed).

Here's hoping the Farrellys finally got their sports movie out of their system (Kingpin's bowling didn't count). Surely they'll get things right next year when they tackle their long-awaited Three Stooges project.

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