Moneyball (Rated PG-13) 2 STARS
Moneyball (133 minutes) is not breaking any ground in the sport’s movie plot department. Much like every other sports movie, ever, an underdog (name a sport) team tries to (name a new strategy) so they can reverse their losses. But wait! (name authority figure) doesn’t believe it will work! But this team has heart, so after ignoring the experts who did not believe in them, they insist on trying (repeat name of new strategy). At the end of the day, the team wins an award/proves they can win/learns that winning isn’t everything.
Two hours in the theater and that is what I am taking away from the whole experience. The film opens on the Oakland Athletics’ as they wrap up their 2001 season. They have just lost to the Yankees by a couple of hits, and they are about to lose the heart of their team, Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi, and Jason Isringhausen. Their general manager, Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) struggles to maintain the competitiveness of the team despite having the lowest salary budget in the league.
While roaming the Earth to recruit players, Beane runs into Peter Brand (Jonah Hill). Brand has clearly read Freakonomics and he is pushing for a math-ematical assessment of players’ value. Bean is working through some issues related to the way he was recruited, which is revealed to the audience via some helpful soft-focus flashbacks.
Convinced that Brand’s focus on recruiting otherwise undesirable players will pay off, Beane hires him and they start convincing random scouts and own-ers that they are smarter than they look. After making peace with the scouts, the scene shifts to dealing with Manager Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman, chan-neling Tommy Lasorda a lot more effectively than he is channeling Howe). Howe insists on playing the roster his way rather than following the formula designed by Beane and Brand.
Beane responds by trading the lone remaining superstar player so that Howe has no choice but to follow the strategy. Of course, the media gives the manager all the credit for the result-ing, record-breaking, winning streak. Flush with the prov-en success of the method he championed, and probably more than little bit pumped at having alpha-maled Howe, Beane wanders the locker rooms sprinkling words of wis-dom and motivation over the players’ heads.
There are some nice scenes in the middle of the movie introducing players who are in it for the love of the game, who aren’t making a ton of money, and who are either trying to find their way into a secure contract after being labeled a liability or are on their way out, and struggling to hang on.
There is also a brief scene introducing Beane’s ex-wife (Robin Wright) that serves to encapsulate Beane’s life. Basically, he had a lot of potential that he didn’t live up to, so the people he was relying on to support him hung him out to dry.
This is a good example of a sports movie. If you like sports movies, you will like this. Moneyball’s strength lies in focusing on the dramatic tension inherent to the coach/general manager relationship, and the media scrutiny and second-guessing. The film is weakest when addressing non-team related issues. The flashbacks to Beane’s recruitment seem emotionally disconnected from the rest of the film, and the scenes with his ex-wife and daughter (Kerris Dorsey) seemed tacked on. I get that the director/writers tried to add an emotional center to the film, but I don’t think I am alone in saying the game itself is the only emotional center you really need.
Now showing at Wynnsong 7, Carmike 12 and Carmike Market Fair 15.