Moneyball (starring Brad Pitt)
There have been many great baseball films. MAJOR LEAGUE, THE SANDLOT, FIELD OF DREAMS, BULL DURHAM, THE NATURAL – the list goes on and on. I confess I’m not the biggest baseball fan. Perhaps it stems from my little league coach verbally abusing me to the point that I wanted to puke my guts out everytime I walked up to bat… I may still have issues. However, most baseball films have still entertained me despite my lack of respect for the sport. While reinforcing some of my problems toward baseball, I have to admit MONEYBALL is the first film to actually persuade me to like the game better.
In 2001, The Oakland A’s were one game off from making the playoffs. Unfortunately their small budget was unable to maintain some of the big players that got them there for the following year. General manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) describes his organization as a farm for talent that teams with bigger budgets like the Yankees and Red Sox keep harvesting from. So how do you create a winning team with a pool of players that are obviously inferior in talent? Beane along with his assistant manager Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) devise a plan to pick players using computer-generated statistic of who can get on base more. Poking holes into the structure of the system by becoming more of a numbers game rather than a player’s game, they reinvented the way baseball is played.
Watching the action unfold behind the scenes was more exhilarating than an actual game. Other than one tension filled match against my own Kansas City Royals, not much playing of baseball is shown. Rather the focus lies behind the scenes as Beane and Brand try to execute their unusual plan. The entire organization, including the scouts, players, coach (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and nearly the entire league think they are crazy, which makes for more obstacles on the already bumpy road. However, because Beane sees value in players that are otherwise worthless and has no need for the ones that do have talent, trading becomes an easy and extremely entertaining venture.
Pulling the whole story together is Brad Pitt. Because his character is in nearly every frame of the picture, it’s important that the actor is someone the audience feels comfortable with. Pitt has a commanding yet easy going presence that makes the film work with pure enjoyment. From his touching interaction with his daughter to his controlled attitude toward his employees, I can’t imagine anyone else with the charisma and confidence who could make the story so entertaining. Jonah Hill was the perfect counter part to Pitt’s leadership. Funny in an entirely different way than how we’ve seen him before, Hill is reserved and insecure. Watching him attempt to tell a player he’s being traded or accept a high five from his boss is embarrassing yet hilarious.
MONEYBALL is a fascinating true story that is not only educational but also wildly entertaining. The ending dragged on a little, lingering on unnecessary scenes. But those editing problems are small flaws compared to the overall humorous and intriguing introduction of a new tactic to win baseball games, which convinced this sports fan that there is more to baseball than out of shape, overpaid athletes.