Is Moneyball a magnificent homerun or simply a strikeout?
Moneyball is the story of the general manager of the Oakland Athletics professional baseball team, Billie Beane (Brad Pitt, The Tree of Life), who embraces an unorthodox approach to forming a baseball team. Adapted from the novel of the same name by Michael Lewis (The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game), the movie begins right when three star players on Beane’s team are bought off by rival teams. Frustrated at being so close to the championship, Beane agonizes with his team of scouts on how they are going to make up for the loss of their players. Weighed down by an undersized budget, Beane decides to try and haggle with the Cleveland Indians for some player trades.
While visiting, Beane encounters Yale economics graduate Peter Brand (Jonah Hill, Get Him to the Greek), a youthful man who uses mathematical formulas to decide which players will best benefit a team overall. After testing the man with a question about his own past as a professional baseball player, Beane buys Brand from the Cleveland Indians. Beane and Brand put faith in some unlikely players based on their on base percentage when they meet with Beane’s scouting team, causing tension between Beane and his coworkers.
Once Beane gets the players he desires, he informs most of them that they are not going to be playing the positions they formerly did. This requires many of them to be trained to play radically different positions than they are used to playing. In particular, Beane’s selected first baseman, Scott Hatteberg (Chris Pratt, Parks and Recreation), must take on a role entirely unlike his previous ones. Beane and Brand continue to test out their concept for forming a winning team, even faced with the team’s disagreeing manager, Art Howe (Philip Hoffman, Jack Goes Boating), who distrusts this seemingly unreliable approach to baseball and continuously goes against the advice of the duo.
The team enters into the season with a rocky start, causing Beane’s and Brand’s experiment to be branded as a failure. However, with some rash decisions by Beane, the team begins to win more games than it loses, rocketing it toward a potential record-breaking win streak.
This movie has heart. Unfortunately, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where that heart is. Beane is miles away from his loving daughter, he faces the possibility of losing his job, and he recounts his days as a failed pro player. These moments are touching, yet not touching enough due to their sporadic placement throughout the film.
The biggest downfall of this movie is that it’s about forty-five minutes too long. We get some plot, we get some character development, and then we get scene after scene of Beane driving around in circles or breaking something out of frustration. These scenes, as characterizing as they are, are repetitive and plain out boring in most cases. The movie appears to have completely zipped over the editing stage, leaving all of its dull, unimportant moments intact. However, it’s obvious that the movie did in fact see the editing stage when another, almost-as-annoying aspect is brought to light: the muted scenes. About every ten minutes, the movie would go completely silent, probably for dramatic effect. The first time it happened, yeah, it was cool. The second time was plain annoying. The tenth was almost unbearable. Sure, moments in the actual baseball games are mute-worthy, but two people looking at each other when they aren’t even going to duel is not. Speaking of duels, the third and final flaw of this movie is its lack of…anything interesting. I kept waiting for some furious ex-player to storm into Beane’s office and try to put a few bullets in his skull. It never happened. I think the people behind me were actually snoring through part of the movie.
While this is not a flaw of the movie, it is still worthy of mention. The cast grew from a manageable few to a perplexing many, most of the characters either generic looking elderly men or voiceless baseball players. The number is not why the cast got so muddled; the amount of screentime each received is. Maybe if the movie had not jumped from character to character without looking back on most of them, the characters would have become more defined. In the end, it’s probably a blessing that did not happen or else we would have had a movie with a run time equivalent to Gone With the Wind.
A major plus to the movie is the acting. No actor or actress failed to deliver. Enough said.
Lacking in direction as well entertainment, Bennet Miller’s (Capote) Moneyball is not a home run by any means. The movie does not pitch many curveballs to the audience in terms of plot twists, but instead induces drowsiness. The acting, though, is enough to save this movie from being a total strikeout, though (Too many puns?). There is some comedy threaded into the movie as well, alleviating some of the drowsiness. Sports fans and, well, Brad Pitt fans should go see this movie, for sure. Though, to most general audiences, Moneyball serves as a mere curveball, distracting them just long enough from even more mundane tasks.
Well, there goes my theory that sports movies are the best movies.
Rating: 3 out of 5