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Review: ‘Moneyball’ Movie Hits A Double

When Sony bought the rights to "Moneyball,"it had a hard time finding the right script.

It was all understandable. The decision was made not to bastardize the truthful nature of the best-selling book based on the Oakland A's accomplishing so much on a flimsy budget.

The problem was simple: The truth wasn't good enough.

And that's unfortunately what turns this film into a double, instead of a home run. As everyone involved freely admits, there's just no natural Hollywood ending.

Brad Pitt in Moneyball
Courtesy of Sony Pictures
Brad Pitt in Moneyball

Billy Beane's bean-counting ways don't lead the Oakland A's to a World Series title in any year. Heck, it doesn't even lead them to a World Series.

What results is a movie that satisfies, but doesn't leave you with the feeling that you have to tell your friends to see it.

While Beane can get credit for a new way of looking at players that allowed him to get more with less, the jury's still out on whether "Moneyball" worked for him. He brought in stars like Jason Giambi, Barry Zito and Tim Hudson, but the 2002 Draft that the book and the movie focused on doesn't look uncharacteristically stellar. It produced Nick Swisher and Joe Blanton, but it also produced a load of duds just like those who scouted the traditional way that Beane scorned.

Beane didn't make it to the World Series, yet the Red Sox did using a combination of big money and "Moneyball" thinking. And the Tampa Bay Rays made it to the World Series on the same budget that the A's had in 2002.

Sony executives are selling this as more than just a baseball money movie. It's about valuing people in different ways, they say. They do that because they have to. But there's really nothing that redeeming about Beane that makes his character bigger than the story itself.

To draw a wider audience, Sony was smart to score Brad Pitt, who does a decent job at portraying Beane. But Jonah Hill, whose role is supposed to come close to Beane's real right hand man Paul DePodesta, steals the show as the introverted, young, Ivy League number cruncher.

While Pitt and Hill at least work nicely together, Philip Seymour Hoffman's portrayal of A's manager Art Howe will disturb traditionalists. As long as they bothered naming him the same name as the A's manager, Hoffman should at least have tried to be more like Howe or maybe it was just the script who turned the more reserved real life Howe into a stubborn character.

"Moneyball" thankfully doesn't mess with the truth too much. If they did, the small group of passionate baseball stat gurus would have killed the film and spiked positive sentiment about the movie to the general population.

CNBC

But the few liberties it does take aren't worth angering the loyal hardcore baseball audience that can smell the inaccuracies.

Pitt flies to Cleveland to negotiate with Indians general manager Mark Shapiro to try to get him to trade him Ricardo Rincon. This is not how things work. And general managers also don't offer to execute trades using their own money, as Beane did in the movie. And no, the 2002 Oakland A's weren't so poor that they had to pay for their own soda in a vending machine outside the clubhouse.

Moneyball will do well. The story is challenging to tell, so I think it's as good as it can be and if you're a baseball fan or sports fan in general, you should go see it.

But if you have a significant other that doesn't like sports, this isn't a can't miss for them like Michael Lewis' other sports book, "The Blind Side",was.

That movie had so much more structure — Michael Oher growing up in a non-traditional setting, becoming a college and then NFL star — and gave the audience lessons about life and race. The depth is what made this movie the highest grossing sports movie of all time ($255 million). "Moneyball" is about nothing more than changing baseball establishment.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com

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