As always, my professional review’s available over at the Herald.

My unprofessional review: I’m a big fan of sports, but I’m lukewarm at best towards sports movies. The dramatic arc is about as predictable as it gets. New coach rolls in, finds his team is filled with losers who no one believes in, belief in them ensues, they start winning, beginning an improbable comeback which leads to the championship, which they win, or which they sometimes lose, but you know they’ll be even better next year. Someone is hoisted onto someone else’s shoulders, credits roll, hooray.

Moneyball kind of follows that pattern but also not. Brad Pitt isn’t the Oakland Athletics’ coach, he’s the general manager. And he’s not taking over, he’s just facing the offseason loss of this three biggest stars. And if you know your recent baseball history–as a fan of the Seattle Mariners, Oakland’s division rivals, I am painfully familiar with this–you’ll know the A’s didn’t win or even go to the World Series in 2002, leaving Moneyball‘s dramatic climax to focus instead on their history-making 20-game win streak. Some of the old cliches are here, like when Pitt and assistant Jonah Hill rake together an “island of misfit toys” nobody else wanted or valued, but, well, that really happened, so. Anyway, I’ve got this theory that good stories are a balanced mix of the cliched and the original. Moneyball has both.

Pitt turns in another solid Pitt performance as a guy who failed young and can’t stand losing now. Hill’s pretty great, too, as a bottled-up geek-type whose ideas about baseball are about to revolutionize the game. Although the history’s already written, and it’s a sports movie so you know there will be triumph in the end, Pitt’s gnawing doubt and worry about whether his crazy new plan will pan out is so effective your stomach will be churning right along with him. Writers Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian paint a lot of extras into the margins; I loved how they nailed Pitt’s ex-wife’s new man as a soft-spoken, gentle, caring wussbag who’s probably the exact opposite of Pitt, the former pro player willing to take a huge gamble with an MLB franchise.

I gave Moneball a B+, and I feel like I might have short-changed (sweet pun, me) it a bit. It’s thrilling and competent in the very best way. A few years from now, we could be looking at this one as a classic.

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