Sunday, October 23, 2011


In Short:
A slow developing baseball tale chronicling the evolution and effect of Billy Beane's statistic focused management technique for selecting his players


Full review after the jump…

My Ramblings:
I remember the amazing run the Oakland A's went on in the early 2000's and I was interested when I heard there was a movie coming out based on the team.  When I saw the movie has a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes I was even more interested.  I am a huge Milwaukee Brewer fan, and seeing a small market team like the Oakland A's battle against the evil Yankees and Red Sox gave me hope that someday my small market team could do the same.  I had the honor of seeing the Brewer's make a bit of a run this year, but with a payroll of $85 Million, this team relied on big money players much more than the A's of Moneyball did.  What bothered me about the film was the implication that the A's used only low paid players assumed to be assumed to be past their prime to win games.  The truth is those teams had Barry Zito, Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson, Miguel Tejada, Jermaine Dye, Eric Chavez, Eric Byrnes, all of whom were young up and coming stars at the time.  The keyword here is 'young', meaning that the A's got them before the massive contracts of big market teams did.  The movie makes you believe that the older, high on-base-percentage players carried the team and that just isn't true.  The Oakland A's have struggled in recent years because they weren't able to find the same high quality young players they were during the years covered by the film.  Billy Beane is a quality baseball General Manager, but to imply his statistical based system is what really led to the A's success is simply not true.

And now for some information more specific to the actual film...Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt) was at one time a highly touted baseball prospect but when we meet him in Moneyball he is the General Manager of the Oakland A's and they are struggling to keep pace with the ridiculously large payrolls of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.  With the realization that his owner is never going to shell out the dough to allow them to sign the same quality of players as these big spenders, he begins to look for alternative methods for building a winning team.  On a recruiting trip he is introduced to Peter Brand (played by Jonah Hill), a recent Yale graduate who believes a winning team can be built based purely on statistics.  Beane embraces the new strategy, much to the dismay of his scout team and his manager Art Howe (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman).  The remainder of the film follows the effects of Beane's new strategy on both the A's successes and on his own mental stability.

It is a sports movie and it was able to hold the interest of my not-so-sporty girlfriend for 133 minutes, so that in itself makes the movie a success.  It's a very different approach to filling out a baseball roster, and this interesting premise plus a high level of drama make it a sports flick worth seeing.  But worth seeing is not something that should earn you a 95% on RT.  In addition to the false implications I mentioned earlier, the casting of Hill, the oddly non-existent acting of Hoffman , and the pace of the film prevent it from being all it could have been.  Jonah Hill is a very likeable actor, but his presence in a major role just doesn't fit the overall tone of the film.  He is known for low brow humor, and trying to see him as a Yale genius helping to redefine the sport of baseball is a stretch.  Philip Seymour Hoffman is one of my favorite actors working today, and he typically kills even the most challenging roles.  So to see him play the boring, flat character of Art Howe is a huge underuse of talent.  Finally the film is just too long.  The story is relatively simply and outside of Billy Beane there isn't much character development to cover.  What should have been a 100 minute movie is dragged out to 133 minutes and there were times I struggled to not grab my iPhone and see if it was my turn in any of my Scrabble games.  The film tells an interesting tale and is a unique sports movie, but it falls far short of the major Oscar contender hype.


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