Movie of the Week: Moneyball

A movie that combines the excitement of baseball with the excitement of statistics was most certainly a tough pitch.  That may explain why Moneyball movie was a struggle to get made.  But it finally got made and is well-acted, pretty well-written and way too long for its subject matter.

The movie is based on the Michael Lewis bestseller that chronicles Billy Beane, the General Manager for the Oakland A’s, who in an effort to make the cash poor A’s compete with franchises like the Yankees, ushered in a statistics-heavy form of scouting for baseball, commonly referred to a sabermetrics.

The writer and director do a pretty good job of making this seemingly boring story watchable for about 90 minutes.  Unfortunately, the movie is 126 minutes long and by the end feels like a three hour epic.  The movie is a treat for Brad Pitt fans since he is on the screen about 98% of the time and he bulked up to play Beane, who was described in the book as a fitness freak.  But Moneyball ends up feeling closer to a George Clooney-level vanity project (or in Hollywood speak – a “passion project”).  Jonah Hill is in top cardiac arrest, Type II diabetes form as the Yale grad geek who helps open up Beane’s eyes to the value of using statistical analysis in fielding a successful, but cheap team.  Jonah Hill has proven adept at exactly two things in acting right now – loud vulgar screaming or dead-eyed, lifeless dramatic acting (not saying I don’t enjoy some of his work, but let’s not start hailing his versatility as an actor).  Guess which of the two he uses here (he is given some good lines that do make his character more engaging than the performance, which is basically a slightly less creepy version of his performance in Cyrus).

Like any sport films, the construction of the band of misfits is the most enjoyable part of the film and the recap of the A’s record 20 game winning streak gives the movie a rare jolt of actual sports excitement and drama.

So the movie is pretty well done, but does anyone want to spend 2+ hours for something slow moving, basically about statistics?  In other words, like baseball, it is nice to watch, full of intricate details, and way too long for its own good.

Final Grade – B