The Polar Express


What She said:


Do we hold sports movies to different standard than everything else?  It seems like every time one comes along that is a bit non-conventional or slightly better than the rest, we make a huge deal out of it.  Moneyball is one of those movies.  Yes, it’s a decent movie, but there is a great deal of Oscar buzz and excitement that seems a bit…well…overinflated. 

Moneyball is the mildly true story of Oakland Athletics baseball general manager, Billy Beane, who during the 2002 season is struggling to keep up on the field with high budget teams, such as the New York Yankees.  Beane teams up with a Yale graduate, Peter Brand, to develop a new way of developing a team, one based on statistical probabilities instead of a big bankroll.  The movie shows how this strategy was created, how it initially had only limited success, and how it grew into a preferred method for creating a baseball team. 

What makes Moneyball an enjoyable movie is the banter that happens between Beane (Brad Pitt) and Brand (Jonah Hill).  With personalities at the opposite end of the spectrum, and being at very different points in their careers, it’s fun to watch them broach the topic in varying ways.  The role seems to be a fairly natural fit for Pitt, who comes across as brash, yet charismatic.  Meanwhile, Hill seems to nail the role of a bumbling super-nerd with a high level of cognitive ability.  It’s also interesting to watch Hill’s character develop under the tutelage of Beane.

The film seems a bit long, and there are some problems with pacing.  Unlike other very straightforward sports movies, the viewer may be unsure of what this is all building up to.  The plot, while fascinating, might not hold your attention for the full 2+ hours on its own.  But the humor and witty dialogue in Moneyball are what make it worthy of a viewing. 

Thumbs mostly up.

What he said:


Moneyball is about Billy Beane; the General Manager of the Oakland Athletics. Having recently come off a playoff loss to the storied New York Yankees, Beane (Brad Pitt) has to come up with a way to stay competitive the next season. His main problem is that he works for a small market team and cannot throw around the kind of money teams like the Yankees do. This becomes apparent as the team loses its biggest names despite its most successful team in years.

In an attempt to remain relevant, he teams up with math whiz and baseball junkie Paul Brand (Jonah Hill). Brand is a mathematical genius and devises all kinds of mathematical equations that figure out who is the cheapest, most efficient options, to replace the players he lost.  This movie documents that unorthodox approach and it’s rather varying results that particular season.

Moneyball is one of those movies that had me running through a whole slew of emotions from the time I saw the first trailer up until when I finally got around to seeing the movie.

When I first heard about this film, I had absolutely no interest at all in it. I like sports, but I honestly don’t care a whole lot about a team that caught lightning in a bottle unless it ends with the winning the championship. The tactic that GM Billy Beane used to build his team in 2002 yielded him exactly the same playoff results as the season before (when he wasn’t using the tactic). So considering the tactic (or gimmick as some call it) doesn’t even get the team any further in the playoffs – let alone a championship – I had a hard time getting psyched up to see it.

Plus, I don’t really care for sports movies all that much. I find them to be rather boring. There’s just something about them I find to be bland and predictable. The one’s I do like tend to be fictional.

I resisted seeing this movie pretty hard. I really didn’t want to see it. The She went and got it without me anyway because we kept hearing just how good it was (all the Oscar buzz and what not).  Now having seen it, I’m torn. I thought it was a solid movie. But I’m really kind of surprised how much people are talking about it. It reminds me of The Social Network (review here) in that sense. Decent movie, but I’m not bending over backwards to praise. I enjoyed it more than I had expected to, but didn’t fall head over heels for it.

I thought Brad Pitt was great. I really like him as an actor. The guy is a chameleon. I have seen him successfully play so many different types of characters that I have grown a great appreciation for him over the years. His portrayal of this quirky guy was spot on. He also brings a lot of sympathy to what seems like a little bit of a tortured soul; Bean’s failures as a player really seem to haunt him.

Jonah Hill was also solid, He certainly showed some range that he had not before. But I’m not sure all of this Oscar talk is justified. Was he good? Yes. However, I think the only reason he’s getting any attention for this role is that because he hasn’t done a drama before. It’s different for him and I can appreciate him stepping out of his comfort zone. He did very well with the part. But I think the fact that it is different for him is the only reason we’re hearing Oscar buzz.

My advice when viewing this is to ignore all the buzz about it. Good movie, but I think the quality is being overstated.

Rating: Thumbs up.

This movie review was given the He Said, She said seal of approval on February 20, 2012.