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'Moneyball' Revolutionizes How Baseball Is Played

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

There are a lot of movies about baseball, from "The Bad News Bears" to "Bull Durham" to "Major League" - hit like Mays, hit like Hayes. Add to the list "Moneyball," which opens this weekend. We have a review from our film critic, Kenneth Turan.

KENNETH TURAN: "Moneyball" is a rare sports movie that deals with more than wins and losses. It follows the entertaining real life quest of a sports revolutionary who wanted to rethink how baseball is played. That man is Billy Beane, played by Brad Pitt in top movie star form. Beane is the iconoclastic general manager of the Oakland Athletics, a team with serious financial problems.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "MONEYBALL")

BRAD PITT: (As Billy Beane) There are rich teams and there are poor teams. And then there's us.

TURAN: Billy's salvation comes when he hires Peter Brand, beautifully played by Jonah Hill.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "MONEYBALL")

PITT: (As Billy Beane) Peter Brand.

JONAH HILL: (As Peter Brand) Billy.

PITT: (As Billy Beane) How are - hi, how are you doing?

HILL: (As Peter Brand) Nice to see you.

PITT: (As Billy Beane) Good to have you here.

TURAN: He's a computer geek who studied economics at Yale but eats baseball statistics for breakfast.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "MONEYBALL")

HILL: (As Peter Brand) I wanted you to see these player evaluations that you asked me to do.

PITT: (As Billy Beane) I asked you to do three.

HILL: (As Peter Brand) Yeah.

PITT: (As Billy Beane) To evaluate three players.

HILL: (As Peter Brand) Yeah.

PITT: (As Billy Beane) How many did you do?

HILL: (As Peter Brand) Forty-seven.

PITT: (As Billy Beane) Okay.

HILL: (As Peter Brand) Actually, 51. I don't know why I lied just then.

TURAN: Brand introduces the general manager to the unconventional world of Sabremetrics. That's a statistical analysis which claims that baseball has overlooked useful players, which means that poor but enlightened teams can afford them.

The fun of "Moneyball" is watching Oakland, in great "Seven Samurai" fashion, assemble a team of unwanted players and seeing how they perform. Bringing this story to life is director Bennett Miller, previously responsible for "Capote." He's a filmmaker who, like Oakland's Billy Beane, sees value in situations others might miss, who treasures quiet looks and careful observations.

Naturally there is resistance, both inside the Oakland team and all across baseball, to the value of assembling what someone calls an island of misfit toys. How well these toys did and what that meant to Billy Beane both personally and professionally is more than just a baseball story. A whole lot more.

INSKEEP: Ken Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.