As far as book to film translations go, Moneyball is an entertaining movie that keeps the spirit of the book. ‘How does a small market team compete/win in the imbalanced world of modern baseball?’ Brad Pitt produces and stars as Billy Beane, the Oakland A’s GM who ‘revolutionized’ the game by incorporating new math formulas into figuring out how to build a good baseball team for little to no money.
Now, that plot description is not remotely cinematic; what the film does well is frame the story as a forward thinking man (Beane and his mathematical genius sidekick played by a still portly Jonah Hill) who comes up against friction at every turn. The old school scouts whose years of expertise are being thrown out; the players who have been conditioned to believe they’re washed up, Beane’s own self doubt at knowing this is his ‘last chance’ to make something of himself. I’m enough of a sports fan to know (SPOILER ALERT) the Oakland Athletics haven’t won a World Series in this timeframe. I won’t ruin where the film ends, but I thought it was satisfying.
So does that make it a good film? It is. But like making a crime film, the bar is impossibly high for what makes a ‘great sports film’. During the Q&A after the screening I attended, someone asked the filmmakers how they felt their baseball film stacked up against Field of Dreams or 61*. Whether you feel the question was a little rude or not, the filmmakers said they only focused on making the film they were making (good answer). And the film they made was entertaining.