The Remake I Didn't Know Was a Remake

April 09, 2005
A thought by James Berardinelli

"24" and "Lost" tomorrow... I promise.

A movie opened this weekend that I didn't recognize as a remake until after I had posted the review. The film in question is Fever Pitch and it shares its title with the 1997 original. I saw that movie 8 years ago, and wrote a review, yet I didn't make the connection, even when I had to change the name of the file containing the new review so it didn't overwrite the old one.

But something clicked when I was thumbing through Nick Hornby's filmography and noted that he was listed as a writer for both movies. (He penned the screenplay of the original based on his semi-autobiographical novel. He is given a "based on the book by" credit for Lowell Manz and Babaloo Mandel's 2005 screenplay.) It turns out that the new Fever Pitch takes the British obsession with soccer and transforms it into the American obsession with baseball. The story travels well, indicating that sports obsession is a universal quality.

I wish I had a better recollection of the first film, but the truth is, the specifics are fuzzy. (Which is why I didn't recognize it as a remake in the first place.) But there is one thing to note. The male lead in the new Fever Pitch is played by Jimmy Fallon, whose most notable accomplishment during the production is that he didn't make me cringe. In the original, the role was essayed by Colin Firth. Fallon or Firth? It's a good thing I didn't recognize this connection until after I saw the movie. That's kind of like viewing a remake of "It's a Wonderful Life" with Ashton Kutcher in the Jimmy Stewart role. Or a remake of "Casablanca" with Robert Redford standing in for Humphrey Bogart. Wait... they already did that one...

What's the point? Just that sometimes it's better not to have seen (or not to remember having seen) an original when it comes to enjoying a remake. I like both versions of Fever Pitch, but recognizing the Fallon/Firth connection beforehand might have limited my ability to appreciate some of what this new version did right. So the review stands, even if it is Firth-less.

(Strangely enough, although I have read a few reviews that have mentioned Hornby's book, I haven't yet encountered one that mentions that this is a remake, although I'm sure there's one out there, somewhere.)