Quick thoughts on the Moneyball film

THT’s Jeff Gross plans a comprehensive Moneyball review for early next week, so be sure to check that out.

In the meantime, an advance screening provided an opportunity for me to see the movie before it debuts this Friday, so I thought I’d share some quick thoughts on the film.

The fact that this effort is based on the use of statistics in baseball means most readers of sites like The Hardball Times will likely go to see it. Certainly, it means those who liked the book probably will check it out. That actually poses a few problems for the movie.

Since so many viewers will bring a tremendous amount of subject material knowledge into the theater with them—sort of like a professor specializing in colonial American history sitting down to watch The Patriot—they’re going to have some issues with the film.

The Patriot could have been a meticulous, in-depth study of the Revolutionary War. Instead, it banked on the popularity of a previous (and very popular) Mel Gibson vehicle called Braveheart and more or less made a similar movie with a different setting. That way, it actually had a chance to make money at the box office.

Appealing to the masses doesn’t necessarily mean a particular movie fails, however. If the filmmakers had to appeal only to viewers with extensive prior knowledge of the subject, they may have made a different movie. But they need to entertain what they hope will be a large number of viewers who just want to watch a good story, and that means we inevitably will find oversimplifications.

As in the book, the main character battles the old guard, which is represented by a cadre of scouts who continue to focus on intangibles. Therefore, it becomes a fight between tradition and technology, and the hero must turn his back on the supposedly proven methods of his old-school contemporaries to embrace evaluations of a Yale-educated economist.

Visitors to this site are familiar with such squabbles, and perhaps have even participated in them. The movie hypes this conflict, but I found many of the scenes funny, and so did most of the rest of the audience.

No need to delay the verdict any further. In short, I liked it. No, it’s not the best movie you’ll ever see, but it’s better than The Blind Side, a previous Lewis book-turned-movie. It’s a fair adaptation of the book, and I suppose that means those who found Lewis’ borderline deification of A’s general manager Billy Beane aggravating in the text shouldn’t be surprised if they come away with the same feeling from the movie.

Now, finally, the quick thoughts.

Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill are excellent. A lot of the humor comes from their interaction with each other.

There are quite a few laughs, but not many one-liners. You’re not going to come away quoting this one like Tombstone.

There are, by my count, two f-bombs. This normally doesn’t matter much to me, but I did take my eight-year-old son last night because no one else wanted to go with me, and he had seen the previews and asked to go. I was afraid he would not like it due to the shortage of fighting robots, but he was a trooper and paid attention the whole time.

The funny thing is, other than those two “queen-mother of dirty words,” the language is pretty tame. If any of you moms or dads want to take your kids with you, consider yourself informed.

The guys playing Scott Hatteberg and David Justice did a pretty good job, although the latter seemed pretty small for a major leaguer.

Toward the end, when (SPOILER ALERT!) Oakland falls in the Division Series once again, there is audio of Joe Morgan telling Jon Miller something along the lines of “statistics are not the be-all, end-all,” etc. Given Morgan’s notoriety for disliking the book, I chuckled and thought that was fitting.

Also, the girl that plays Billy Beane’s daughter sings a song for him and that song sounds a whole lot like a song from Juno, and the melody is stuck in my head.

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