Monday, October 24, 2011

New Release: Moneyball

I know, you're sad because there wasn't a podcast this week.  But the Morgan Freeman episode was so much fun we had to wait a little while so you could recover.  But we'll return next week with a pretty darn odd actress.

Instead, here's my review of Moneyball.  Based on a best-selling book by Michael Lewis, it tracks the off-season of the Oakland Athletic's general manager, Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) and his attempt to create a stellar ball club with a measly $39 million.  The recent World Series winners, the NY Yankees, have a budget of nearly $115 with which to buy the best players.  Beane thinks this is horrible unfair and rails at the world for a little while since he can't afford to keep his 3 best players any longer.  However, at a meeting one day, he runs into Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) who is whispering in another GM's ear to keep certain players - generally "bad" players.  Overall, Billy wants to know what's up, and eventually buys Peter from the other GM.  Peter is an economics major from Yale and has figured out that if you only look at a players' ability to get ON FIRST BASE, you can pick the best players - many of whom are wildly UNDERVALUED because they have other odd quirks that keep them out of the best salaries.  Beane figures he's got nothing to lose and with Peter's help plans a whole new team, even trading players once the season starts.  While nearly impossible to stomach, once it begins yielding results, no one can criticize.

This concept, while hardly perfect, revolutionized the way people looked at baseball.  "Moneyball" is a coined term looking at very specific characteristics of players and how they theoretically could create a team.  The movie hints at the end that the Boston Red Sox adopted this method and finally won a World Series less than 2 years later.  For a nerd like me this made for a wonderfully interesting movie.  It was like Major League goes to School.  And for all that, you get to watch Brad Pitt wheel and deal through what its obviously a very fast-paced process that needs a lot of guts. But he's a more complex character than that - which often drags down the film.  We meet his ex-wife (Robin Wright) and daughter who worries about the team's prospects.  We also see Billy's past as a high school baseball player whose dreams of going pro happen, but aren't what he'd hoped.   Jonah Hill does a good job as the protegee learning the ropes and understanding he might not have the strength to keep going in this job.

We see a lot of the different players - some are chosen very specifically because they get on base, but others are to fill in the roster.  It seems that it's hard to commit fully to playing "Moneyball" because it really does involve going against a lot of intuition of players.   Billy battles the manager (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) as well as all the previous scouts to try to get them to follow his lead. Overall, I really enjoyed the movie.  It was lacking a specific spark that most sports movies have, but it would be hard to say how to add it to the film or if it really would elevate it beyond just a good solid flick.  I really enjoyed it and am looking forward to seeing it again.  4 of 5 stars/lambs


Ryan McNeil said...

Great post dude - glad to see you enjoyed the film, especially given your slight nonchalance where baseball is concerned.

As everyone knows by now, I wasn't as fussed :)

Dan O. said...

It may not feel quite like the classic baseball movie others have achieved, but it’s certainly pleasant enough to be enjoyable even by non-sports fan, and features great performances from Hill and Pitt. Good review.

Castor said...

Solid movie but I was left wanting more. It was a bit too forgettable IMO in that it was competently made but not really anything more.

Jess said...

I can see all of your points. There were things I really enjoyed about the movie, but it was missing a spark that would have made it great, or even truly memorable. Good filmmaking, but not great.