(The predictive power of) Mirrors and Statistics
Moneyball and Happily N’Ever After 2
This is going to be a very difficult double review to write, because Happily N’Ever After 2 is a pretty bad movie without much to chew over, and I don’t have a lot to say about Moneyball. Happily N’Ever After 2 provides a “hip” take on the Snow White story, making Snow’s troubles into her struggle with adult responsibility, with her father about to marry an awful step-mother rather than dead. Moneyball is a typically Sorkinian dramatic interpretation of the story of Billy Beane, Peter Brand, and the statistcs-based approach to baseball at the heart of Michael Lewis’ popular book (which I’m compelled to read at some point).
A few thoughts:
- Both films feature figures fighting to gain power in systems rigged against them, and using magic to do so. In Moneyball, of course, this “magic” is the statistical wizardry of Peter Brand, who breaks the game down by success rates rather than lovely swing or skillful play. Because the movie hasn’t really got time to actually show or explain much in the way of statistics, we instead get a magic mirror in the form of Jonah Hill, who whispers the answers over Beane’s shoulder. In Happily N’Ever After, of course, the wicked stepmother comes to power through the machinations of Ruplestiltskin and her magic mirror, somehow. It’s not entirely clear. But when she needs them, they perform spells and help the queen accomplish her goals.
- Public opinion plays similar roles in the films–Snow White gauges her own failure to live up to royal expectations by the dwindling public opinion of her. When she starts doing good deeds, the public gets behind her. Billy Beane sees a similar arc in Moneyball, finding public opinion against him as he assembles a Major League-style team, each good at their own thing but against the usual grain. When they start winning (and pull a 20-win streak), the public comes around.
- Neither movie really stands out that much too me. While I like Moneyball quite a bit, I’m not sure why it’s in the Best Picture contention, nor why Brad Pitt is nominated for best actor. His acting in the movie is really solid, certainly, but in the end I feel like all the sequences of Beane listening to the radio while he stares into the distance, pensively, are overdone. And frankly, Happily N’Ever After 2 is just a bad movie, from the trite storyline and dialogue (the teenage “damsels” Snow hangs out with greet one another with the grating “Holla!”) to the bizarre choice to animate every adult woman in the film with enormous chests. It will stand as a lesson in planning our family movie nights a more carefully.
Moneyball – well worth a watch, though overrated as far as I’m concerned.
Happily N’Ever After 2 – not worth watching. Boooo.