Moneyball

2 10 2011

I’m not a fan of Major League Baseball. Like many Canadians, I prefer to concentrate on sports like hockey and football. However, Moneyball is not your typical baseball movie.

Featuring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill, Moneyball is the true story of Billy Beane, a general manager who tried to turn the business of Major League Baseball on its head. Instead of paying players hundreds of millions of dollars, Billy Beane tried to put together a team for a fraction of that cost.

This budget limitation is due mostly to necessity. Being a small market team, the Oakland A’s simply cannot afford to spend as much as, say, the New York Yankees. This frustrating reality is seen throughout the first half of the movie, where Beane tries to save his free agents from moving to other teams, only to come up short when these other teams can easily offer more money.

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Beane turns his team around by hiring Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), an economist who recently graduated from Yale.  Brand has developed a computer program that determines the most undervalued players on the market. This makes him a valuable asset, and he becomes Beane’s assistant general manager to help develop the best, most cost-effective team in Major League Baseball.

It is impressive to see Jonah Hill play a character outside of the ‘funny fat guy who tells crude jokes’ niche. As the young, inexperienced Peter Brand, his acting was spot on, and he is somebody to whom most of the audience will be able to relate.

The rest of the movie follows the ups and downs of the team. However, since Billy Beane doesn’t watch the games himself, we spend very little time actually watching the sport. Instead, the focus is on the backroom negotiations, emotions, and drama that take place behind the desk of every Major League Baseball franchise.

So, if you’re looking for a heroic, Cinderella-story run to the finals, then Moneyball isn’t your sports movie.

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Perhaps Moneyball’s greatest achievement is that it never gets boring. In a movie about baseball statistics, trade negotiations, and other such aspects of an MLB general manager’s life, I never once asked myself ‘when is this movie over?’ As mentioned above, I don’t even like baseball.

Moneyball is great because its story extends beyond any particular sport. This is a story for anyone who wanted redemption over a bigger, stronger, opponent at some point in their life. While it revolves around baseball, there is nearly as much time spent talking in empty baseball stadiums as there is spent watching the actual sport of baseball.

For all of these reasons, I thoroughly enjoyed Moneyball. Sports fans will appreciate the glimpse into the world of backroom negotiating and strategy, while everybody can enjoy the strong storyline and meaningful characters. If there’s one sports movie you see this year, make it Moneyball.

4.5 stars out of 5

 

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