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English Fever Pitch vs. American Fever Pitch

To introduce a new wrinkle into the tired old Book vs. Film Adaptation debate (since books almost always win), today I'm taking a look at a sub-category of that debate: Film Adaptation vs. Film Adaptation. Today I'm concerned with the two different adaptations of Nick Hornby's 1992 memoir Fever Pitch from the two different sides of the pond: England and the U.S.

1997 - U.K. 
On one hand....we have Fever Pitch (1997 - U.K.): Stars Colin Firth and Ruth Gemmell, takes place in England and is actually about soccer; sort of brings Hornby's memoir to celluloid life by fabricating a "love story" and pitting the main character's love of Arsenal Football Club against his Adult Life and the fact that his girlfriend is pregnant and all that. Interesting because the film completely does away with the age-old and trite question of "will he get the girl?" by having the girl (a co-worker) come on to him early in the film and then dealing more with the arch of their relationship after. Also cool because there are little tidbits in there which you'll only know the significance of if you've read or are reading the book. Really, not a bad film at all, even taken by itself.

2005 - U.S.
On the other hand...we have Fever Pitch (2005 - U.S.): Stars Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore, takes place in the U.S., is about pro baseball's Boston Redsox, and bears only scant relation to Hornby's book. This fight so obviously goes to the English version that it's not even worth doing a point by point comparison. Not only is the English version a smarter, subtler and better-acted film...it actually has something to do with the original memoir, unlike American version. Look, I understand Hollywood Studios are out to make money and when they smell a good story-line they go for it. Can I fault them for glomming onto Fever Pitch spinning it into a sappy rom-com about baseball in order to make a few bucks? No. But it is rather remarkable (read: shameful and embarrassing) how the entertainment business can peel the husk (really just two words!) off of a great memoir and a not so bad film and slap it on a cutesy film bearing no resemblance to the original material. 

The only saving grace is that someone, somewhere (hopefully Nick Hornby but probably not) made some money off this and it's not like anyone got exploited in the process (we are not mining diamonds or growing sugar cane here). As far as I'm aware, there were no rights disputes over this film. I've not seen Hornby's comments on the American version but....do I really need to? The American film has about as much to do with the memoir as pizza flavored Combos have to do with pizza. What would you have to say if someone made a film version of your memoir but set it in another country and used in it a sport or job you never had any contact with whatsoever? You'd say: "Thank you. Now, pay me." Which is all I hope Hornby said about the situation. 


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