Though I find myself in the minority among friends when it comes to my hopes and expectations for Moneyball, I anticipate that they will all spend ten bucks to see it once September 23 rolls around. In my eyes Moneyball has everything going for it–big name actors, an Academy Award winning screenwriter who made one of my favorite cameos on HBO’s Entourage and of course an outstanding story that both sports fans and non-sports fans will be drawn to watch. What’s not to love?
For me personally, the story is endearing as a baseball fan and it has led to lofty expectations for this film. I’m not from Oakland and I’m not an A’s fan, but I am a fan of a losing team that plays in baseball’s most difficult division. Just the title of Michael Lewis’ book, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, is enough to grab my attention as a frustrated O’s fan. Seeing what the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies have done to Major League Baseball draws me in to what Billy Beane constructed with the A’s and makes me eager to see it portrayed on screen.
My hopes for Moneyball are high. I have seen eight sports movies in the past five years: Talladega Nights, Invincible, We Are Marshall, Leatherheads, Blades of Glory, Semi-Pro, The Blind Side and The Fighter. (Apparently, I continue to be see Will Ferrell’s movies even though I always leave disappointed). I expect Moneyball to be more compelling than all of the movies in the above list.
I have heard two great worries about the film from baseball fans. The first involves casting. Fans of the game are worried that Brad Pitt‘s character will not properly represent the real life personality of Billy Beane. The same applies to Jonah Hill as Peter Brand and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Art Howe. For the average person, this is a non-issue. If you pulled ten people off the street and asked them to identify Beane in a lineup, you’d be lucky if one of them could. But, baseball fans are very familiar with Beane and they worry that Pitt won’t be exactly the same person. The fact is that he won’t and that’s okay. Jesse Eisenberg isn’t exactly the same person as Mark Zuckerberg, but he portrayed the character so well in The Social Network that people familiar with what Zuck looks like forgot all about it minutes into the movie. You have to trust the skills of the actor and I certainly do with this cast. When you read the book and imagine Pitt as Beane, Hill as Brand and Hoffman as Howe it just works, you have to trust that as a baseball fan. The rest of the country won’t struggle with that issue.
The second concern that readers of the book or fans of the game have with the movie is how it will transition on screen. For general managers around baseball, Moneyball became almost a how-to guide for building cheap and successful teams. So much so that people have often forgotten that within the guide is a wonderful comeback story about an amazing baseball prospect, Beane, who didn’t make it as a player, but had great success creating a new brand of baseball from the front office. Both baseball fans and non-baseball fans will be drawn to Beane’s story as a can’t miss high school star who failed to achieve success at the big league level. We all love comeback stories and this is one that will be enjoyed by both types of movie goers for different reasons.
I knew as soon as I saw that Aaron Sorkin worked on the screenplay with Steven Zaillan that Moneyball would likely be my favorite film of the year. Sports fans should remember Sorkin’s work on the much beloved, but canceled Sports Night during the late-90’s. He also wrote A Few Good Men, The West Wing and most recently the aforementioned film, The Social Network. His character dialogue is often fast-paced and intelligent, mixed with a bit of wit and light but smart humor. No one compares.
The combination of the cast, story and writer is enough for me to know that this film will be a slam dunk as it captivates audiences around the country. Just as Beane achieved success in the front office, I expect Moneyball to clean up at the box office in September.
Zach Wilt is the Founding Editor of BaltimoreSportsReport.com. You can follow him on twitter @zamwi or shoot him an email: firstname.lastname@example.org