Moneyball (Bennett Miller, 2011)

What's it about? Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) is the general manager of the baseball team Oakland Athletics, a small outfit who are unable to compete financially with the big names in the Major League. However, when economics graduate Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) shows Beane a way to assess players based on pure statistical analysis, he realises he might be able to assemble a winning team from under-valued players that the big teams have overlooked. But can he convince his skeptical colleagues and doubtful players that this is the way forward?

Is it any good? Pretty good, although never really Excel-lent (that's a little spreadsheet humour there, folks. Because they use spreadsheets in the film, see? Never mind.) What we have is essentially two underdog films for the price of one. The first half of the film follows Beane's fight within the club to prove that his new approach works, with Pitt on good form and the snappy dialogue driving the action, which mostly takes place in dressing rooms and offices, rather than in the sporting arena. The second half of the film, which focuses on the team of so-called misfit players as they attempt to add up to something significant, is not as good, partly because none of the team members are really developed as characters. As a result, even though there should be plenty to cheer about, it isn't really likely to get you up off the chair and punching the air like the best underdog films do. Nevertheless, it's entertaining throughout, certainly more so than you might expect from a film about baseball statistics. Not quite a home run, then, but a reasonably solid hit. (A little baseball humour there, folks. Because they play baseball in the film, see? Never mind.)

Anything else I should know? Based on the true story of the Athletics' 2002 season and adapted from the book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis. The branch of statistics referenced in both book and film is known as Sabermetrics, the name derived from the acronym SABR (Society for American Baseball Research). Following the Athletics' success, this analytical approach to sport was embraced by John W. Henry, billionaire owner of the Boston Red Sox (who subsequently went on to win the World Series) and Liverpool FC (who subsequently went on to win the, er, Carling Cup). This explains why Liverpool players run around in circles a lot and try to hit the ball out of the stadium.

What does the Fonz think? A batting average of around 0.7, but it passes the t-test (a little statistics humour there, folks. Because they use statistics in the film, see? Never mind.)

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