“Moneyball” Review: light, intelligent baseball drama

HollywoodNews.com: The greatest strength of Moneyball is arguably also its greatest weakness, at least in terms of mainstream appeal and would-be Oscar love. It is a film adaptation of the Michael Lewis book which chronicles how Oakland A’s manager Billy Beane (played in a near-flawless movie star turn by Brad Pitt) used Peter Brand’s (Jonah Hill) groundbreaking statistical analysis to build a winning team out of low-cost players that were considered borderline useless by the bigger and richer teams. That’s the movie in a nutshell.

What is most refreshing about the picture is that it simply accepts that it is a small drama about one baseball team and how they achieved one successful season back in 2002. Moneyball is, give or take a few needless detours into Beane’s family life, primarily about the game of baseball. It’s about how two people changed how the game was played by trying a different strategy that would allow poorer teams to compete against the likes of the New York Yankees. If you are a fan of the game, a fan of statistical analysis, and/or a Brad Pitt fan, you’ll more than get your money’s worth. But the film makes little effort to appease casual viewers or those who don’t already have an interest in its subject matter. Like Gettysburg or Miracle, it is a procedural drama about its specific subject matter. If you don’t like baseball, then what you are even doing reading this review?

No one cures cancer. No one saves the world from tyranny or fights for the oppressed. No one overcomes impossible odds to win the day. In fact, the whole movie is about arguably, to use my wife’s nickname for cheating), ‘shifting the odds’ in their favor. The film does not pretend to be anything more important than what it is. In fact, the only real flaw of the film is the insertion of a handful of scenes which highlight Beane’s relationship with his twelve-year old daughter. The first such moment, involving the purchasing of a guitar, is overly long but does have a call back in the third act of the film.

But the rest of the scenes are merely needless moments of young Casey Beane (played by a perfectly fine Kerris Dorsey) worrying out-loud about whether her father’s unconventional strategy will cost him his job. This fear is dealt with more succinctly in the main story, and the entire subplot drags down an already lengthy movie while feeling deeply cynical. Let’s just say if you’re a ‘stereotypical woman’ who doesn’t like sports, ten minutes of Pitt bonding with his daughter isn’t going to convince you to see the movie. I would argue that there a few too many scenes flashing back to Beane’s history as a failed ballplayer, but at least that material relates to the core narrative. The film is about how statistical analysis changed the game of baseball, and it works best when it sticks to that thread.

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