Critics Consensus

Critics Consensus: Moneyball is Certified Fresh

Plus, Dolphin Tale inspires, Killer Elite wanders, and Abduction sags.

by | September 23, 2011 | Comments

This week at the movies, we’ve got baseball nerds (Moneyball, starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill), aquatic rehab (Dolphin Tale, starring Harry Connick Jr. and Morgan Freeman), an assassin-dodging teen (Abduction, starring Taylor Lautner and Lily Collins), and a tough-guy showdown (Killer Elite, starring Jason Statham and Clive Owen). What do the critics have to say?



Moneyball

94%

Do you love The Natural, but wish the movie had found time to take a closer look at Roy Hobbs’s OPS and weighted on base average? Well then, Moneyball is the movie for you, and critics say it’s a moving, witty underdog tale that somehow manages to find drama in baseball stat geekdom. Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) is tasked with fielding a competitive team on a small-market budget. His solution is to ignore traditional scouting methods and focus almost exclusively on obscure statistics that measure players’ abilities in ways that have been overlooked by other teams. Will Beane’s feather-ruffling approach be accepted in the staid world of Major League Baseball — and more importantly, will it yield results on the field? The pundits say the Certified Fresh Moneyball is a smart dramedy with excellent performances and a razor-sharp script that is likely to appeal to folks who don’t know the first thing about our national pastime. (Check out our countdown of the best baseball movies here.)



Dolphin Tale

81%

In these cynical times, we could use some good old fashioned inspirational family entertainment at the multiplex. And critics say the pleasant, uplifting Dolphin Tale fits the bill, thanks to solid acting and a script that manages to avoid schmaltz and still jerk tears. Based upon a true story, Dolphin Tale is the story of an injured seafaring mammal who damages her tail in a crab trap. A team of specialists and a lonely youngster band together to help our aquatic heroine — now sporting a prosthetic tail — to swim again. The pundits say Dolphin Tale deftly avoids the corniness that could have weighed it down, and the result is a heartwarming film that will please both kids and adults.



Abduction

4%

Given his high-profile gig in the Twilight franchise, it was inevitable that Taylor Lautner would get his own starring vehicle. Unfortunately, critics say he could have chosen a better one than Abduction, a predictable, mediocre thriller that never slows down long enough to make sense. Launter plays Nathan Harper, who learns that the family he’s living with is not his own. Soon, he’s on the run from an elite group of assassins, and he tries to piece together his mysterious past while staying one step ahead of his pursuers. The pundits say Abduction is Bourne-lite, with unintentionally funny dialogue and an absurdly complicated plot that strands a talented cast. (Check out Lautner’s Five Favorite Films here.)



Killer Elite

25%

Killer Elite is a globe-trotting action flick with a top-notch cast and more on its mind than your typical thriller. Unfortunately, critics say those intriguing pieces don’t add up to a satisfying whole, and Killer Elite is ultimately a formulaic adrenaline-fest with a plot that wanders all over the place. Jason Statham plays Danny Bryce, a hired gun on the edge of retirement who’s lured back into action when his mentor Hunter (Robert De Niro) is taken hostage. Our hero must finish the job Hunter was contracted to do, but soon he’s run afoul with a rogue group of soldiers lead by Spike (Clive Owen), who’s now gunning for Danny. The pundits say Killer Elite has macho attitude to spare, but its execution is off, and the result is an overlong and confusing film that raises interesting moral questions without answering them. (Check this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down Statham’s best-reviewed movies.)

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • Weekend, a romantic drama about two men who meet and share their lives over the course of 48 hours, is at 100 percent.
  • Thunder Soul, a documentary about Houston’s astonishingly funky Kashmere High School Stage Band, is at 100 percent.
  • Pearl Jam Twenty, Cameron Crowe‘s documentary portrait of the grunge superstars, is at 71 percent.
  • Limelight, a doc about the rise and fall of New York nightclub impresario Peter Gatien, is at 71 percent.
  • The Whale, a doc about a killer whale who befriends some residents of Vancouver Island after being separated from his family, is at 67 percent.
  • Puncture, starring Chris Evans in a drama about a drug addicted lawyer who investigates a health care and pharmaceutical industry conspiracy, is at 57 percent.
  • Archie’s Final Project, dramedy about a high school filmmaker who announces he’s going to kill himself on camera, is at 40 percent.
  • Machine Gun Preacher, starring Gerard Butler in a drama about a former biker and born-again Christian who goes to Sudan to save as many children as he can, is at 29 percent.