Tuesday, June 4, 2019

The Spy Behind Home Plate Movie Review

Moe Berg, as featured in The Spy Behind Home Plate

Moe's Mystery

Rotten Tomatoes Plot: Aviva Kempner's The Spy Behind Home Plate is the first feature-length documentary to tell the real story of Morris "Moe" Berg, the enigmatic and brilliant Jewish baseball player turned spy. Berg caught and fielded in the major leagues during baseball's Golden Age in the 1920s and 1930s. But very few people know that Berg also worked for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), spying in Europe and playing a prominent role in America's efforts to undermine the German atomic bomb program during WWII. The Spy Behind Home Plate reveals the life of this unknown Jewish hero through rare historical footage and photographs, as well as revealing interviews with an All-Star roster of celebrities and other individuals from the worlds of sports, spy-craft, and history. Berg may have had only a .243 batting average during his 15-year major league career, but it was the stats he collected for the OSS that made him a most valuable player to his country during World War II.

What's Good: Moe did this, and Moe did that. Kempner does an effective job of listing Berg's accomplishments, but fails to project one iota of emotion or personality. If you're stuck in time (WWII, to be precise) this could be your cup of tea. Otherwise...

What's Not: Despite a wealth of information, the doc crawls along at an intolerably slow pace. I love baseball and history, but dozed off twice before walking out of the Avalon after 75 minutes. Dated (to a fault) with zero flash or soul.

Budget: N/A

Runtime: 98 minutes (Feels longer, much longer.)

Target Audience: Old people

Bottom Line: Kempner should have stopped at The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg, which was a much better (and entertaining) documentary. Her second attempt at a famous Jewish baseball player reveals little, and raises more questions than it tries to answer.

Grade: D (for dull.)