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‘Moneyball’ strikes out on maudlin melodrama

By Julian De Ocampo ’13

“Moneyball” – Starring: Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill

Let’s be upfront here – I don’t know a lot about baseball; that being said, I do know enough to say that “Moneyball” isn’t a good movie.

First on the list of setbacks is simply the fundamental premise of the movie. This is a sports movie (always a niche market) that isn’t even about sports – it’s about sports management.

The film stars Brad Pitt as Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane, who, with the help of assistant general manager Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), helps the dying and severely underfunded franchise break the record for most consecutive wins in a season of baseball.

Clearly, this is a niche market.

Making a movie about baseball caters to a certain audience. Making a movie about the Oakland Athletics caters to potentially an even smaller audience.

But making a movie about the Oakland Athletics’ general manager during the 2002 season? Seems to me that’s just asking for trouble.

And what’s so frustrating is that, if movies like “The Social Network” prove anything, it’s feasible to make great dramas out of niche subjects.

“Moneyball” attempts the same dramatic approach to a much less satisfying outcome.

A great deal is made throughout the course of movie of the concept of “romanticizing baseball,” something the film itself is all too guilty of doing in the form of long, maudlin still shots undercut with string scores intending to tug at one’s heartstrings.

In short, it’s all fluff.

This film is bloated to no end, with needless plotlines, superfluous characters and enough overcooked drama to make “The Blind Side” seem callous.

Those willing to trudge their way through conversation after conversation of baseball logistics are treated to a number of increasingly ridiculous “artsy” shots of Brad Pitt dramatically jogging, driving his car or putting his head in his hands – over and over and over.

And clocking in at more than two hours, this film becomes a drag to get through. The film opens at the end of the Athletics’ 2001 season and concludes at the end of the 2002 season, meaning that it covers the entire season’s trading, training, playing to the very end.

Brad Pitt merely does adequately as Billy Beane, but, perhaps as a result of the film being based in truth, the character never evolves past angry machismo, with Pitt portraying Beane as nothing more than an overly emotional drag.

Jonah Hill fares better as Pitt’s painfully awkward assistant, but similarly faces difficulties in slipping into his role as Peter Brand – likely a result of the fact that Brand is just an average guy like you and me. This is a biographical drama, and even Hill, usually reduced to portraying caricatures of human beings, can’t make Brand come to life.

Again I have to say I’m not a baseball aficionado, but I do know a good movie when I see it, and “Moneyball” misses the mark.

In the end, even with all the pretty shots and tender moments, the film strikes out on three things – poor pacing, lousy characterization and a severe difficulty in engaging the viewer.

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    Brad PittNov 11, 2011 at 11:38 am

    How can you possibly give this a 2.5? Even if you arent a baseball buff, it still holds all the qualities of a great film. 8.5/10