(Long Island, N.Y.) I’m not really that into sports. And I’m especially not much of a baseball fan. Hey, sorry, but we all have our own thing, right? So, with this being said, I went into the showing of the film I’m reviewing today, Moneyball, with a small bit of bias against it. Why, you may ask? Well obviously, if you couldn’t guess, Moneyball is a baseball movie. But you know what? That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because while it deals with a sport that I know almost nothing about (football comes in first when it comes to my sports ignorance hit list), Moneyball is, first and foremost, a good movie that just so happens to be about baseball.
In other words, you don’t have to know anything about baseball or even like it to get enjoyment out of this film. Just buy your ticket, plant your butt in the nice stadium seat, and prepare to be entertained.
Now, another thing Moneyball has going for it is that, while it IS a sports movie, what it’s NOT is yet another one of those “band of misfit underdog players make the most of their quirks and pull together to win the big game” movies. Well, actually…it kinda IS one of those movies, but there’s a twist that makes it fresh and unique in a crowded marketplace of “inspirational” sports movies.
Oh yes, did I mention that Moneyball is based on a TRUE STORY? Well, it is. The story involves the Oakland Athletics’ General Manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), who tries to revamp his team of losers in time for their 2002 season. The traditional route of throwing buckets of cash at the best players are denied to him due to the fact that the dough just isn’t there, so instead he goes for an unorthodox solution: Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), a young economics graduate who has discovered a way, via the power of computers and statistics, to assess overlooked players and figure out how best to leverage them so that the team wins as a whole.
Despite the obvious lunacy of drafting players that are considered old, injured, and just plain loaded with suck by the general population (not to mention his staff), Beane embraces Brand’s plan and, despite heavy opposition from head coach Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman) to play these guys the way they need to be played, the plan eventually comes together and before you know it, the Oakland A’s are on a winning streak that is shocking the nation. But the question remains, can they bring home the championship and quell the regret hiding in Beane’s heart, himself a former pro baller who spent a lackluster career being traded around from team to team because he didn’t have what it took?
Like I said, you don’t have to be a fan of baseball to dig Moneyball. It’s well-acted, smartly paced (impressive, since most of the action takes place off the baseball field), and fairly engrossing, as there’s quite a bit of human drama going on. I’m not sure why director Bennett Miller spent quite so much time focusing on Billy Beane’s workout routine throughout the movie, but I guess when you have a guy that looks like Brad Pitt subbing for his decisively more average-looking real-life counterpart, you have to explain why he’s not fat and gross like the rest of his staff members.
Plus, in addition to getting deep into Beane’s nooks and crannies, we also get a nice glimpse into the life of a professional baseball player and all the hills and valleys their careers hit along the way. Some get hurt, some fired, some traded, some sent to the minor leagues. It’s a bumpy, uncertain ride for these folks, and I came away from the movie with a new-found sense of respect for what they do as athletes and human beings. I still don’t give a damn about baseball, but I feel for the people playing it.
So, sports fan or not, Moneyball is an excellent way to kill 2+ hours. Oh, and for you sports fans – I watched Moneyball with a die-hard sports maniac, and he liked it a lot as well, so if you can’t take the word of a non-sports schlep like me, then by all means, take his. After all, he knows his stuff when it comes to sports.