Too much hype can be a bad thing. Sometimes it raises expectations to unattainable levels. The usually elusive Brad Pitt is everywhere promoting his new film, “Moneyball.” And that costs lots of money.
Ironically, the film’s subject matter is all about cash and the lack of it in professional baseball. When the Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane (Pitt) can’t produce a team to reach the World Series, he’s convinced it’s due to a lack of money. He turns to an Ivy League statistics genius (Jonah Hill) who advocates Sabermetrics, a statistical approach to drafting players.
Together they compile a team of misfits, revolutionary in its concept, and end up setting a world record. In 2002, the Oakland A’s won 20 consecutive games in a season, and although they didn’t make it to the World Series, the game of baseball was reinvented.
“Moneyball” is a good story and slickly scripted by Aaron Sorkin (“The Social Network”) and Steven Zaillian (“Schindler’s List”). But it’s obvious that there was a different film in mind than what ends up on the screen. The immensely gifted Robin Wright, as Beane’s ex-wife, has only one scene and yet receives top billing. Brief scenes between Beane and his daughter seemed to be tossed in for no reason. Perhaps the fact that director Steven Soderbergh spent a great deal of time promoting the movie as semi-documentarial accounts for the superfluities. Bennett Miller (“Capote”) replaced Soderbergh when he and the studio parted ways.
Two outstanding performances by Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Arliss Howard are dreamy to behold — effortless perfection. Pitt is fine, but since his over-the-top small role in “True Romance,” I’ve never seen him stretch (well, almost in “Inglourious Basterds”).
Based on Michael Lewis’ book, “Moneyball” is more of an insider’s guide to the inner workings of baseball. I loved such films as “A League of Their Own” and “Bull Durham” because you didn’t have to know anything about baseball to fall under their spells. “Moneyball” strikes out on that level and dashes my great expectations.
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