Brad Pitt stars as Billy Beane, the Oakland A’s manager during their dramatic and record breaking 2002 season, and Jonah Hill as his Assistant Peter Brand (a fictional composite created for the film) who develops the formulas for finding undervalued players. Typically speaking, I dislike Jonah Hill and the characters that he plays, however he puts on a great performance in this film as a young geek who is hoping to get his opinion heard but too timid to really speak it aloud. Pitt also does a good job leveraging his charm to act like a jerk part of the time, before he learns to be closer to his team.
For a Sorkin (re)written film, I expected more rapid fire witty dialog but this movie favors quiet reflection a bit more than I expected. And it jumps around a bit, which was sometimes unsettling. The tale of Pitt’s youth as a high school recruit is intercut with his troubles managing the team, which is frequently jarring, and I’m not entirely sure it was valuable. The story tries to be a character piece around Pitt with the setting of his trying to create a series winning team with no budget. I unfortunately didn’t find the character piece entertaining, and while I was fascinated by the team building portions, the truth is that this is almost no different than creating a Magic: The Gathering deck or forming a compatible D&D team.
Several people have talked to me about Fantasy <whatever> — either Football, Baseball, Basketballl, etc. My gamer friends have all been pretty transparent about the fact that it’s like D&D for jocks and I don’t doubt them. Picking a party of players with predefined stats and then playing a game of randomized encounters with other parties of similar creation is exactly what D&D is like. Except instead of dice rolling, there’s the actual game. And instead of rigged dice, debating the DM, or cheating, you have performance enhancing drugs, arguments with Refs, and cheating.
Which makes a movie like Moneyball seem… well, silly. Of course you would want to stat-maximize your team for the attributes that contribute to increased scoring. I was doing this in early High School playing D&D and Magic. Hell, I was doing it with jRPGs in 1993. There’s something bizarre about adults coming to shocking realizations about how to improve their craft that was known to children over TWO DECADES earlier. What sort traumatic experience is ‘growing up’ for these people that they forget the things they learned so well as kids?
I like sports films, despite not liking sports at all, but I think I like the romantic aspects of it more than the actual logistics. Turning a sport into a parable about friendship, love, and family… I’m on board with that. Actually reminding me that there are real morons managing teams out there is not so much up my alley.
Still, it is entertaining, and as a one time watch, it’s actually quite good. I’ll go with Recommended, but not all that highly.