Taking Nick Hornby’s novel Fever Pitch and turning it into a movie starring Drew Barrymore and Jimmy “I Cheer for the Yankees and the Red Sox!” Fallon is tantamount to making a movie about the Bible and then casting Madonna as the Virgin Mary. It cannot be done. I repeat: it cannot be done. And while I admit that I’m making this declaration before having seen the movie–I’m assuming I will, despite my reservations–I feel as though it’s fully justified. The main reason is this: Hornby’s original novel, aside from being one of the top five greatest books I’ve ever read, is also inextricably linked with Arsenal F.C. It isn’t just a book about a man and his obsession with his favourite team: it’s a book about a man and his obsession with Arsenal. Not Tottenham Hotspur, not Manchester United, not the Boston Red Sox, but Arsenal. The book is full of digressions about Arsenal matches of yore, ruminations about the club’s players, stories about travelling to see the team on the road…I mean, the book may as well be made available in the Arsenal team shop. But this means, also, that it can’t be taken out of Highbury (so to speak) without compromising its author’s intent–and even if the brothers Farelley had kept their movie in North London, they still would have had a hard enough time doing justice to the original. (Even the original movie adaptation–yes, Fever Pitch has already been made into a movie–did a serious injustice to Hornby’s novel, and it was shot on location!) And granted, the point in making a movie isn’t to be faithful to its source, but to make a good movie…but from what I’ve seen of the trailer and read about in interviews, I’m not convinced it will be. Instead, I’ve got this terrible feeling that the Ferelleys have stripped the book of its essence, dummed it down to the IQ of the typical American sports fan and made it into a conventional romantic comedy. Which will make it a total chick flick, a decent box office hit…and a total and utter disservice to the novel.
It should also be mentioned that Fever Pitch is also partly a study of British football–a point that should be all the more poignant this week, what with the Liverpool/Juventus match and memories of Heysel rushing back. Again, you can’t separate Fever Pitch from soccer anymore than you can make it about a Boston Red Sox fan (or a “fan” in this case, since Fallon has admitted to liking not one, but two, but three baseball teams–including the Red Sox and the Yankees, which is kind of like saying you’re both a Minnesota Vikings fan and a Green Bay Packers fan). I guess I’m concerned because Fever Pitch, the book, occupies a special place in my heart, and the thought of seeing a dumbed-down, Americanized version on the big screen is enough to make me vomit in my own mouth (it’s like The Phantom of the Opera in that regard, only somewhat worse, since at least with the Phantom movie there was no chance of it straying too far from the source material). I’m sure I’ll find out sooner or later if my fears are confirmed or not…but until then, I’m going to assume the movie will be a travesty. Sort of like watching Madonna in the manger.