There's an inevitable comparison here. Real life story based on a book about a young pioneer using technology to change traditional behaviours. Sound familiar? And Moneyball does bear some comparison with The Social Network. Yet, it's not handled with the same aplomb – there's a few too many shots of spreadsheets filled with baffling baseball statistics, and too many scenes explaining what's going on. Some will be put off simply by the amount of the sport in the film – but it seems unfair to criticise a film about baseball for featuring too much baseball – and the action on the field is all the more gripping when unaware of outcome.
The main problem really lies in the zip of the dialogue. The wit and sparkle is still there in part, but it lacks the characteristic Sorkin fast pace. There are laugh out loud lines and plenty of witty asides from Pitt, Hoffman and Hill, yet it's all delivered at a far more sedate pace than one's come to expect from the Oscar winning screenwriter. Whether this was a conscious decision on Sorkin's part, the result of him coming late to the project, or simply Pitt's inability to deliver that kind of dialogue effectively will remain a mystery – but anyone expecting West Wing-esque verbal flourishes will be disappointed.
The flaws are laid bare in the penultimate scene featuring Beane and Boston Red Sox owner John Henry. The dialogue is stilted, uninteresting, serves little plot purpose, and the whole thing goes on far too long. While the film is by no means a write off, the drawn out ending only goes to highlight many of its weaknesses.
On the plus side, it's a great story, with some fascinating insight into modern sport that will be all the more interesting to those in Britain unfamiliar with the history involved. Some have criticised it for being overly schmaltzy, but for a sport movie it does impressively well to steer clear of the heavy handed emotion, while at the same time allowing for some nicely played sentimentality. Pitt delivers a solid, if a tad bland performance, and Hill is perfectly suited to playing the brainy, fish-out-of-water Brand, suddenly surrounded by pro-ball players and seasoned baseball men. A nearly unrecognisable Philip Seymour Hoffman isn't given much to do as the unhappy coach, holding out against Beane's grand plans, but what he does he does well.
It's just a shame that with the impressive cast assembled, and the inherently dramatic story that they have to play with, that something more wasn't delivered. Maybe hopes were raised too high following the success of the writer's previous film, but this feels like somewhat of missed opportunity. In fact, while enjoyable, this felt much more like a Brad Pitt vehicle than a Sorkin film. Perhaps those marketers know what they're doing after all.