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LOST SEASON
JIMMY FALLON FAILS TO DRIVE IN WINNER IN RED SOX COMEDY

FEVER PITCH ***

STARRING: Drew Barrymore, Jimmy Fallon, Marissa Jaret Winokur

DIRECTOR: Peter and Bobby Farrelly

RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes

RATING: PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, and some sensuality

THE LOWDOWN: A romantic comedy about a baseball fan's unwavering support for his hometown Boston Red Sox and his girlfriend who doesn't share his love of the game.

When Jimmy Fallon recorded a comedy album in 2002 with a song called "Idiot Boyfriend," more of us should have listened to it. If we had, we would have gotten a whiff of what was to come in Fallon's modest climb through LaLa Land since leaving "Saturday Night Live" in 2003.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I give you Exhibit A: "Fever Pitch."

In the romantic comedy, Fallon plays Ben, a hapless romantic with an unhealthy obsession with the Boston Red Sox. When he meets Lindsey (Drew Barrymore), an account executive with business on her mind and baseball off it, Ben falls head over heels in love, as is wont in romantic comedies. The two stroll the streets of Boston talking life and love, picnic in the park over hot dogs and beer, even take in a few Red Sox games a week.

It's formulaic but, luckily, above average. Fallon is still the lovable (albeit for minutes at a time) nincompoop who has yet to cross the bridge of maturity into responsible adulthood. A high school math teacher by day, Ben's off-campus passion for everything Red Sox is as strong as it was when he first visited Fenway Park as a young boy. His apartment is lined, floor to ceiling, with Red Sox memorabilia.

Yet he can't seem to understand why an attractive, successful businesswoman like Lindsey would have a hard time competing with an organized game of catch. (Cue "Idiot Boyfriend," and turn it up.)

Truth be told, Ben's fanatical obsession with his favorite baseball team is the exact reason we love him. It's cute to see a grown man blush at the thought of receiving his UPS'd season ticket delivery and even more adorable when he gets down on one knee as if going to propose to his girlfriend of one month, instead inviting her to Opening Day.

It's why Lindsey likes Ben, too.

But much of the movie is spent trying to reason with a 23-year-old man who would even pass up meeting his girlfriend's parents for an annual pilgrimage to spring training. You want to slap Ben across the face.

Still, you root for him to wake up and smell Barrymore's roses. (No surprise here, I'm sure; the ending is everything you knew it would be. Don't shoot -- I'm just the messenger.)

The formula for "Fever Pitch" is surely not original, but given that Babaloo Mandel's screenplay is based on the Nick Hornby novel about his own childhood obsession with soccer, there's a little more bounce in Ben's step. You know, coming from Hornby -- whose novels "About a Boy" and "High Fidelity" have made successful page-to-screen translations -- that any abundant sap in the love story and subsequent bickering is heartfelt and as honest as it can be. Add Bobby and Peter Farrelly ("Dumb and Dumber," "Me Myself and Irene") to the mix as directors and the sophomoric comedic wheels are set in motion.

But as goofy and witless as Ben is in his pursuit for both the Red Sox pennant and girl of his dreams, Fallon does indeed get a little closer in securing a spot in the short list of successful "SNL" alumni. Mike Meyers eventually made it, but it took Chris Rock many years to grab the attention of both Oprah and Oscar producers. It will take more "Fever Pitches" and fewer "Taxis" to give Fallon his needed booster seat into that realm of succes.

It's not a home run, but as Ben would surely tell you, getting to third base can be just as much fun.