'Moneyball' fails to hit a grand-slam, bunts instead

By Matt Rooney

Have you ever had someone come up and tell you something really exciting, and you go, "Wow! how did that happen?!" And when they explain, you go, "Oh...OK?”

Well, that's exactly how this year’s film "Moneyball" is. It’s a movie about the Oakland A's, one of the worst major-league teams in baseball and how their owner Billie Beane, played by Brad Pitt, turns them into the team that sets the record of most wins won in a row (20). Yes, the event is interesting and would seem inspiring, but the reason behind it is pretty much "oh...OK.”

I have never cared about any sport: baseball, football, etc. I don't care about the stats, the players or the people behind it all. The movie is all about these things, which means it is a movie about the business of baseball, not the game itself. This is a treat for any baseball fan, but it will fail to convert anyone else.

"Moneyball" is not about what you see on Fox or ESPN; it's about what goes on

behind the scenes. Quite frankly, it really isn't interesting. There is no courtroom drama appeal, no bonds broken, no people deceived, no growing tension.

Movies like "The Social Network" thrive on these ideas when it would seem the movie is just about Facebook. Behind the scene of baseball, however, it's just men talking about, well, baseball. Oh and occasionally, like in all sports movies, there are times when someone says, "You can't do that!" and the response is, "Yes I can!"

This could all be helped by some whip-smart dialogue, quicker editing, a more upbeat tone in a lot of areas and, especially in this movie, a sense of tension accompanying the idea Beane is promoting.

But instead, the director and the screenwriters treat every scene with about as much engagement as, well, talking about baseball. This gives the movie a slower and more restricted feel in terms of whom the movie is really for. The movie doesn't feel as if it was written by two creative screenwriters (which it has, Steve Zailian and Aaron Sorkin), but instead by two baseball fans.

With this at hand, Pitt actually brings some added enthusiasm to his role. Beane is charming and quite serious about what he's doing, and Pitt embodies that well.

As for Jonah Hill playing Peter Brand, the man who helps Pitt using stats and clever financial tricks…I like Hill, normally, and he displays some dramatic chops here. But the whole performance feels restrained and rather dull with some occasional bits of humor. But that's not his fault; it's the character’s, who is not very interesting, but necessary.

The movie also has the terrific Phillip Seymour Hoffman in the plainest role he's ever taken. He plays Art Howe, the team’s coach who always has a look on his face as if he's just farted, knows it and is too ashamed to admit it. Again, it's not his fault. Like Hill, it's the character who is too dull to be on screen, yet must be.

For the sake of retreading, I will repeat myself. (I know it’s unoriginal but just roll with me.) This movie is not about baseball itself. It is about the business of it and the men behind it. Unfortunately, to me, none of that is interesting.

The actual game itself is why a lot of people go see these movies because they can relate with the underdog and inspirational theme (pretty cliché, but a lot of people seem to like it). Anyone who has seen this movie knows it takes a good hour and a half really to feel anything actually has been accomplished. This is because of slow pacing and a director and writers who truly find baseball interesting.

This is not all bad stuff, but just what I happened to dislike about the film. For anyone who is a true fan, this movie will seem phenomenal. It’s about the sport they love and the people behind it all. It's like having those stats and articles they read come to life.

And for that, the movie earns points. It knows what it's about and whom it's for. It just so happens it's not for everyone.

The movie does have a powerful ending involving Pitt, Hill and later, the girl who plays Beane’s rarely seen daughter Casey, portrayed by Kerris Dorsey. It all involves a downtrodden Beane being told by friends and family in two different ways the type of man he is. Hill does the task of telling him he's the man who has changed the game for the better and doesn't even know it.

His daughter has the better share of the emotional weight as she, through song, shows her dad he is a man who takes his job seriously, has too much stress and just needs to sit back, take it all and know he is an amazing man. This scene has all the emotional weight handled in the song and Pitt’s tear-written eyes.

The bottom line is this: This is not a bad movie. It is just strictly for baseball fans. It's about the men behind the bats and how they talk about the men holding the bats. It could've been helped by some fresher storytelling devices and a strong sense of how what Beane did changed history (which it did), but, instead, the filmmakers took a story with an amazing ending, then told the uninteresting part of it, which alienated the non-fans.

There are some good performances and an almost redemptive ending, but it’s too little, too late. What I'm trying to say is baseball fans will find this movie engaging and eye-opening, as everyone involved seemed to find the story, but everyone else will feel as if they are being benched.


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'Moneyball' on IMDb