I wish I could get straight to my point here, the way Moneyball the movie became the opposite of Moneyball the concept, without first explaining why Moneyball isn’t a good movie. But seeing as how it’s currently tracking 94% recommended on RottenTomatoes, it looks like I owe it some time.
At best, Moneyball is inoffensive. It’s one of those movies that’s great at looking like an important movie without coming close to ever being one. It has the trappings of a good movie. It’s a stuffed shirt. It’s Ryan Seacrest, or a news anchor you listen to because he’s wearing a suit.
Brad Pitt’s Billy Beane isn’t a character so much as a collection of quirks. He’s always chewing and spitting and pursing his lips, and sometimes he gets mad and throws stuff. He’s stressed, get it? Mainly, he’s a handsome delivery vehicle for expository ideas from the book who never actually connects with any of the other characters (not that it’s Pitt’s fault). That’s the problem with Moneyball, the only compelling parts are direct exposition of the moneyball concept from the book, and everything else is cutesy bullshit.
The first chapter of the book deals with Billy Beane converting Scott Hatteburg from a catcher to a first baseman. The A’s wanted him because he had a high on-base percentage, and knew they could get him for a bargain, because at that time, he was a catcher who couldn’t throw because of an elbow surgery, and what good is a catcher who can’t throw? The movie depicts this thusly: Scott Hatteburg (as played by Chris Pratt from Parks and Rec) sits at home watching the phone. He finally gets a call, and it’s Billy Beane. “Hey Scott, it’s Billy Beane from the Oakland A’s. I want you to come play for us.”
“Yeah, I want you to come play for us, but first I have to talk to you about something. Could you let us in?”
“Let us in, we’re standing outside.”
Get it? Billy Beane is such a quirky maverick that he just travels across the country and shows up at people’s houses without calling first. And as the busy GM of a professional baseball team, it totally makes sense for him to spend that much time wooing a guy you just told us was a washed-up player no one else wanted anyway. Yes, I’m being sarcastic. But even if you buy that premise, the scene doesn’t tell us anything about these guys. Its entire purpose is to be this fake-quirky moment of surprise that we liked the first hundred times we saw it in a movie and presumably will again. “Hollywood Bullsh*t”: moments borrowed from other movies placed into a context in which they don’t make sense.