Moneyball: Based on a true story

Joy Watson - Theatre crasher (Tom Bateman/AQ)

Moneyball: a movie that’s unfortunately not about someone carrying around a giant ball made of money. What hijinks would ensue when the character tries to purchase a wallet! Alas, this is about baseball instead – you know, that sport that Canadians don’t really care about.

The story is thus: in the early 2000s, Oakland A’s manager Billy Beane (played by a Dad-ish looking Brad Pitt) put into action a theory that could allow the lowest budgeted team in the league to form a championship-worthy team. They boot up their laptops and use stats to find overlooked players who get on base – which leads me to consider a better title would’ve been Who’s On First? My status as an English student suppresses me from believing that stats could be used for anything but evil, but the concept is intriguing.

Sports movies as a rule are predictable and difficult to invest in if you don’t personally own a jockstrap. I entered the theatre with a pile of snacks to distract myself from the thought of hearing that f$@*ing speech in the locker room at the 11th hour (“You’re not just playing for yourselves anymore… you’re playing for your country”) where all seems lost and the music swells until it’s inflated beyond repair – and good lord, they’ve won against all odds!

No, thank you.

But Moneyball doesn’t fall into that schmaltzy trap, which makes sense; a movie about defying the conventions of sports should also defy the conventions of sports movies. Instead of relying on corny devices the movie evolves organically. The actors have real interactive conversations instead of merely trading clichés. The scenes between Pitt and Jonah Hill are particularly well-staged, even though I occasionally expected Hill to transform into his filthy-mouthed character from Superbad who only wants to get freaky.

Apart from a few dry jokes, Moneyball is a fairly serious production. Are there any fun sports films besides Jerry Maguire or A League of Their Own? Air Bud, maybe. Sports movies take themselves too seriously for what’s really at risk in the grand scheme of things, which is – let’s face it – a game.

When Pitt’s character stomps into the team’s locker room to trash the place as a message to the losing team, I had to agree with an elderly audience member who yelled out, “Oh, who cares?!”

As a film, however, it looks and sounds great and will probably scoop up an Oscar or two for audio/visual do-goodery. The bright green baseball fields contrast against the stark black and white of whirring computer screens and the sharp crack of bats punctuate the building action of the mostly conversation-based plot. The attention to detail is admirable, from the footage interspersed of real Oakland A’s games to the tobacco Pitt is constantly, repulsively chewing.

So if you want a solid, no-frills inspirational sports movie, this is the most satisfying one you’ll find around. But if you’re a moviegoer after comedy and hot romance, I’d suggest looking elsewhere – perhaps toward the Psycho retrospective coming to Empire Theatres in October.

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