September 17, 2011

The "Moneyball" Reviews Are In! Who to Believe?

This past week, critics hit the theaters to see the latest Brad Pitt vehicle.

But this is no ordinary Pitt movie, friends, this is the big screen adaptation of the stats nerds' bible Moneyball...and if the early reviews are any indication, this thing is going to polarize the baseball blogging world.

Most vocal about the movie's quality (or lack thereof) is ESPN.com's senior baseball writer Keith Law.

Says Law:

Moneyball, the movie, is an absolute mess of a film, the type of muddled end product you’d expect from a project that took several years and went through multiple writers and directors. Even good performances by a cast of big names and some clever makeup work couldn’t save this movie, and if I hadn’t been planning to review it, I would have walked out.

Pretty harsh words, really, but then again, I really wouldn't expect anything less from Law.

I can't say that I'm not a fan of the guy, but as a regular listener of the Baseball Today podcast...I can say that I appreciate the times when he isn't on versus the times that he is.

On the other side of the fence is Hardball Talk's Aaron Gleeman...a fan of the Michael Lewis-penned tome.  Dude even considers it "some of the best, most important baseball writing of all time".

I came into the movie with low expectations and was bothered by some of the poetic license taken in telling a tale I’m very familiar with, but the underdog story is compelling, the individual performances are mostly very good, the Aaron Sorkin-penned dialogue is funny and charming, and “Moneyball” is absolutely worth seeing.


So why is he agreeing with the critics (the movie is currently at 83% on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer) and not Law?

Is it overall objectivity?

Or is it that Gleeman, while also a baseball fan and writer, isn't as close to the subject matter as Law, who was interviewed for the book?

Either way, I don't think "Moneyball" was put together to get Law's approval or the approval of his scout buddies that he so adamantly defends.

"They are set up as dim-witted bowling pins for Beane and Brand to knock down with their spreadsheets," Law writes. "It’s cheap writing, and unfair to the real people being depicted".

This move was made to get asses in the seats.

The filmmakers want to fill the theatres with movie goers who have casual knowledge of the sport.  People who will stare blankly at the screen for two-plus hours and, on the way out, give it a simple "thumbs up" or "thumbs down".

This thing was not made for the sabermetrics zealots.

And besides, if you've ever had an argument with the SABR crowd, you know that making a simple "up" or "down" decision doesn't come that easily. Most are long, drawn out diatribes that make getting hit in the head with a Randy Johnson heater a welcome option.

My favorite quote about the film comes from Slant Magazine's Joseph Jon Lanthier who wrote that the movie is "about as concerned with baseball management as Sports Night was with sports broadcasting".

And, honestly, that's how I think we, baseball fans, need to go to into this thing.


1 comment:

HSMITH0127 said...

I believe if the movie entertains you then it accomplishes it's goal. Have we all forgotten that. We used to go to the movies to be entertained not to help the movie earn more money than the previous movie.