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Movie Review: 'Moneyball' -- 4 stars

Brad Pitt, left, and Jonah Hill star in

Brad Pitt, left, and Jonah Hill star in Columbia Pictures' drama "Moneyball." (Melinda Sue Gordon) Photo Credit: Brad Pitt, left, and Jonah Hill star in Columbia Pictures' drama "Moneyball." (Melinda Sue Gordon)

Moneyball
4 stars
Directed by Bennett Miller
Written by Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, based on the book by Michael Lewis
Starring Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Chris Pratt, Stephen Bishop
Rated PG-13

Thanks in large part to a killer screenplay by Aaron Sorkin and Steve Zaillian, “Moneyball” takes what could have been a dry, dull story and turns it into one of the most enjoyable movies of the year.

“Moneyball” centers on Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), who nine years ago rejuvenated his flailing baseball team against all odds. The movie opens with the wealthy Yankees cannibalizing the relatively impoverished A’s by luring away the Oakland team’s top three players.

Beane responds by hiring an unassuming Yale economics graduate, Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), to assemble a winning team based not on stellar individual stats or camera-ready personalities, but on obscure statistical theory.

Beane encounters resistance every step of the way. The media mocks him, and his own colleagues spit at his feet. The trauma of it all revives inner demons that have haunted him since his tragically brief stint as an MLB player in the 1980s. Beane hits some serious underdog lows, which makes the vindication, when it finally arrives, oh so sweet.

The writing is as smart as you’d expect from Sorkin, but it’s also sincere, funny and emotionally investing.

You don’t even need to know baseball to be seduced — it’s a thrill just to watch Pitt and Hill problem-solve together. Hill, especially, is a revelation, proving he’s just as strong in drama as he is in comedy. The rest of the cast — Philip Seymour Hoffman, Chris Pratt, Stephen Bishop — isn’t too shabby, either.

Who’d have thought that a movie about statistics could give you so many goosebumps?

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