Sports movies don’t have a complicated formula. Take a bunch of ragtag characters who are unlikely to become friends, make them play a sport together, throw in some message about camaraderie, teamwork, faith, growing up, or overcoming adversity, then watch ticket sales soar. These films are typically focused more around coaches or guys who own the corn field they converted into a baseball diamond, but they still show the sport they’re talking about as a major piece of the film. Moneyball decides that the best way to make a baseball movie is to talk about baseball rather than show any of it.
Moneyball is the real life story of Billy Beane (Brad Pitt, Tree of Life), the general manager of a poor baseball team trying to compete with rich teams. After his team loses yet again, he decides to team up with Peter Brand (Jonah Hill, Megamind), an economics major who has developed an innovative formula to pick baseball players based on the number of runs they get and not on how their girlfriends look. The duo then spend the rest of the film fighting management, fans and other baseball people who think their idea will ruin the sport by bringing things like common sense into the game.
This is not a film for the casual sports movie fan. People who loved A League of Their Own and The Sandlot but who never go to the actual games would be bored to tears by this. Moneyball is a film for hardcore baseball fans, people who can look at a baseball card and know exactly what it’s talking about with all the little numbers.
It would probably help too if these people were also accountants. The film is constantly showing screens of baseball stats and equations, that anyone who doesn’t understand what they mean will be completely lost. This isn’t helped by the endless dialogue about the antiquities of baseball and the backwards thinking of the entire business. Such dialogue makes the thing feel about twice as long as it is.
The weirdest thing about Moneyball is that there is almost no actual baseball played in the entire film. Most of the action is clips from the real life games that the film refers to, spliced in with video of Phillip Seymour Hoffman playing the coach of the little team. The only actual baseball game played is as it should be, a big climactic finish to show the drama that the game has. Unfortunately, afterwards, the film goes on for another half hour with more boring dialogue and incomprehensible Matrix-like numbers. It just adds more pain to an already excruciating movie.
The film overall isn’t the worst thing ever made. It’s probably enjoyable to someone who knows what these people are talking about. Baseball fans who sit around sports bars discussing the game for hours on end over a bowl of pretzels would probably get a lot out of Moneyball. Everyone else on the planet would probably have more fun watching anything else.
Moneyball is rated PG-13 for strong language.