Sunday, September 25, 2011


Moneyball tells the true story of how, in 2001, a chance meeting between a very unlikely pair changed the way baseball is played. When Oakland Athletics GM Billy Beane went to Cleveland to discuss trades with their GM, he couldn’t help but notice a nerdy, young looking man in the meeting that seemed to be making big decisions for the Cleveland GM. So, after the meeting, Beane tracks the kids down and asks him who he is. The young man says Peter Brand, but, as Beane put it, I don’t care what your name is, I want to know who you are. He finds out that Brand is an egghead from Yale who uses statistics and computer code to determine the best possible roster for a ball club. He doesn’t care about fame, salary or even physical characteristics. Instead, he takes a completely cold, facts only approach, plugs the person into the code and they either show up on his chart as a good bet or a bad bet. Billy is sold and hires the kid on as his new assistant GM. Of course, both this move and the new method fly into the face of over a century of baseball wisdom and just about everyone thinks Beane has completely lost it. Will it pan out? Is ne nuts or is he onto something?

I’m about to give this movie a very mild recommendation and I have to start out by saying I recognize that I am in the vast minority on this one. For crying out loud, the movie has a 94% Approval Rating on Rotton Tomatoes right now. Well, too freaking bad, because, like baseball itself, I know there are many aspects of it that, on paper, make it look like I would like it, but when I’m actually watching it, I just don’t dig it. I didn’t care what happened to these characters, I didn’t care if it worked out all that much and, generally speaking, I really wasn’t much engaged in the movie at all from start to finish.

How can this be when the cast was fantastic, the performances were very natural, the cinematography great and the script written by two of the best screenwriters in existence? Well, I think it boils down to the story itself. It’s not about how two unlikely heroes saved baseball or came up with a way that took a rag tag team to the top. In fact, the A’s had just been very deep into the playoffs the year before. Essentially this movie is about how a GM took a chance on a theory that made his good team slightly better. They don’t go on to win the world series and, in fact, they don’t even go further into the playoffs than they did the season before the new approach was put into place. Yes, Beane’s new approach did have a huge impact on the way all teams approach playing the game, but very little of that in the movie. Most of the movie is about a guy making his team slightly better. And where is the drama? These are rich white guys, one of whom has a degree from Yale, who are making millions while managing a pro sports team. They go to their fantastic job and do a good job thereat, there’s the movie, that’s it. I just never felt any drama, anything engaging, and at the end I just sort of shrugged. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t that good. In a way, I felt like I was watching an actual baseball game. Like in a game of baseball, it has a small handful of thrilling moments, but overall it’s usually pretty forgettable.


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