“Moneyball,” based on the true story of the 2002 Oakland A’s and their unlikely success story after losing all their marquee players the season before, strikes a rare balance for a sports movie.
“Moneyball” focuses not on the players or the games themselves, but on the unorthodox mathematical strategy of general manager Billy Beane. It helps that Beane is played by Brad Pitt, but what’s truly interesting about “Moneyball” is how it creates drama around scenes filled with crusty old baseball scouts, backroom deals, and a hard look at the numbers — specifically the percentages of the game.
Jonah Hill is the young Harvard economics graduate recruited by Pitt, and shows no trace of his frantic persona in “Superbad,” but he and Pitt have great chemistry and the film has a terrific dry sense of humor.
Director Bennett Miller took over from Steven Soderbergh, who was attached to the project previously. This is Miller’s first film since Best Picture nominee “Capote” and again his sure hand juggles a lot of interesting thematical material with out making it heavy-handed.
Despite being a tale of the front office, “Moneyball” also works as a tale of the haves vs. the have-nots, and rarely panders to its audience, putting it in the higher eschelon of sports-underdog movies.