Moneyball feels like a missed opportunity. It could have been a home run, instead it’s more like an infield single. A hit is a hit, but it’s just OK when it should have been great.
The filmmakers have taken an unconventional best-seller and removed much of what made the book interesting in the first place. It’s still got some snappy dialogue but It’s now a baseball movie with hardly any baseball actually in it. However, if you’re looking for shots of Brad Pitt staring meditatively off into space, this is the movie for you.
Pitt stars as Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane. He’s a former big league phenom who never panned out as a player, but is now trying to compete in the Big Leagues running a small market team with a third of the budget of the New York Yankees. Beane succeeded by ignoring the conventional baseball wisdom and studying the numbers to find valuable players other teams had overlooked.
To help keep the audiences heads from spinning the filmmakers have created a character named Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) to delve into the numbers behind the strategy. He’s a Yale university numbers guy who impresses Pitt with his unconventional theories and becomes his new Assistant GM. Hill stretches his obsessive geek persona into interesting new territory here. The comes alive when Hill and Pitt are horse trading with other GM’s trying to steal players at bargain prices.
But it’s clear the film treats the numbers element as a bit of a tedious necessity. And just when it appears to dig into the strategy of how he puts together a team we cut away to more scenes of Pitt as a divorced dad interacting with his daughter, or flashbacks to Pitt’s younger days as a big league flame out.
Billy Beane’s background is a part of the book, but its a minor part and easily the LEAST interesting part of it. Watching Moneyball I couldn’t help thinking about “The Social Network.” Both films were written by Aaron Sorkin and they share subject matter that threaten to get bogged down in wonky details.
But whereas “Network” found a way to embrace the material and make it come alive, “Moneyball” seems to want to ignore as much of it as possible in favor of a conventional biopic.
What little baseball there is in the movie is treated like a necessary evil that everyone just wants to be over and done with as soon as possible. The baseball strategy was the best part of the book, here it’s essentially reduced to a montage.