Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Moneyball review

Since football season is all about waiting for something to happen, I went to see the Brad Pitt vehicle 'Moneyball' the other nightIt's a good flick, but ultimately flawed.  Here's my review:

I wanted to love Moneyball, I really did.  The book the film is based off of was one of the defining sports reads of my life (while I still disagree with much of it), it's a baseball movie (I'm a sucker for baseball flicks), and it stars Brad Pitt fer chrissakes ('Bon-jer-no').  I am, decidedly, this movie's target audience.  And yet, in retrospect, the film wasn't all that good.

To be clear, I had a great time watching it.  I got more chuckles out of the subtle jokes than many in the theater did, I was enthralled by the machinations of a clubs front office, and I ate up the beautiful presentation of the game I love.  Unfortunately, as a film, this beast was doomed from the start.

I could sit here and get picky, that Billy Beane would never have gone to the Indians offices to discuss a mid-level trade (where, in the film, he discovers the fictitious Peter Brand) or that the A's had built the "moneyball" system into the organization in the years prior to '02, but that would be nearsighted of me.  Ultimately, this film fails because it has nothing to build to.  

The character study of Beane, the acerbic A's GM, is brilliant and compelling (mostly 'cause Pitt is a fantastic actor), but there is no larger story arc.  The A's of the early 2000's are interesting only in respect to their ability to root out a store of under-valued talent that professional baseball had essentially never tapped.  While their example ushered in a new era of player evaluation and development, they lack the ultimate success, or shocking failure, that makes for a good story.  Outside of "Billy being Billy," there's really nothing to this film.  
Pitt is fantastic as Beane, yet he's driving the film to nowhere in particular.
The movie starts with the pain of losing to the Yankees in October. The audience is treated to moaning about how unfair the system is, and that the A's of the world have no shot against the villainous Yankees and their piles of cash.  Yet, when it comes time to resolve the story, the Yankees are nowhere to be found.  Instead, the climax of the tale ends up being an early September game against the lowly Kansas City Royals, in which the A's blow a 11-run lead, only to triumphantly walk-off... against the fucking Royals.  

Scott Hatterberg, played charmingly, yet briefly, by Parks and Recreation favorite Chris Pratt, hits his "dramatic" home run off the "great" Jason Grimsley.  I'm supposed to be entertained?  It's fucking Jason Grimsley!  I cannot stress this enough.  Beating the Royals during the century's first decade, no matter the context, does not make for good drama.
Pratt is awesome, but his climactic home run struck me hollow.
Maybe that's just reality letting down Hollywood.  The 2000's A's, despite plenty of against-the-grain success, never really achieved anything.  While in the book Beane rails about how foolish "old-school" GMs like My White Sox own Kenny Williams are, Beane never really had ultimate success to latch onto (While Williams, notably, did).  The truth is that Moneyball, or essentially a new way of evaluating talent, only granted the "have-nots" a few years of sneaking into the playoffs before the "haves" caught up to what was happening.  In retrospect, maybe the story should've been about futility; the ultimate tragedy of trying to pursue the Sisyphean task of trumping the Yankees with a sub-$40 million payroll. 

Regardless, Pitt is fantastic, and the flick is compelling enough to hold your attention throughout it's over 2 hour run-time.  See it, but don't be surprised if you find the final 30 minutes to be anti-climactic.


JT said...

I enjoyed Movieball quite a lot, but you are spot on. Do you think a better climax might have been Beane's drafting of Nick Swisher? Or Dallas Braden's perfect game? Or maybe C.J. Wilson's rant?

~Tuba John

RumblinBuff said...

Kenny Williams winning the World Series in '05. That should be the ending of every movie ever.