When is a movie about baseball not really a baseball movie? When it has Trouble with the Curve. Legendary entertainer and veteran of the silver screen Clint Eastwood returns to acting after his solid performance in Gran Torino from four years ago but hands over the directing duties to long-time collaborator and first-time director Robert Lorenz. It’s the first time in two decades that he’s acted in someone else’s film. If only the results had been a bit more realistic and less inundated with middle of the road sensibilities. Never sharp around the edges with emotional impact, the film maintains a pleasant tone with its use of understated humor but southpaws a wonky pitch to the head with most everything else.
Written by Randy Brown, the film follows an ornery baseball scout named Gus (Eastwood) who’s lagging sight and old age forces him to lug his mostly ignored adult daughter, Mickey (Amy Adams), around with him on a make-or-break recruiting trip. Named after Mickey Mantle, Mickey earns her living as a lawyer and now must find a way to earn her father’s respect with billiard tricks, scant knowledge of baseball, and the modern technology her father so famously detests. It’s a tough row to hoe and fumbling through an obligatory romance with a fellow scout (Justin Timberlake), who follows her around with puppy dog eyes and little else, isn’t going to help matters. Neither is Gus’s flailing health.
Largely predictable and dotted with genre ticks best suited for formulaic romantic comedies, Trouble with the Curve is a bit troubling as every character’s intentions are so cleanly transparent and so far telegraphed that the third act twists and turns are merely groaners that insure the film’s lifetime bi-monthly rotation on TBS. Simply put, the film never tries to be anything more than mindless fluff when it is given every opportunity to resonate.
The beats – acting, emotional, and otherwise – simply aren’t subtle and sure as hell never complex. This is middle of the road material; it’s Space Cowboys meets Fever Pitch by way of Grumpy Old Men. Eastwood is cranky. We all know he can sell that well. Adams is spunky, yet emotionally distant. The two have an easygoing chemistry but their relationship never develops into something worth investing in for very long. Especially when it’s so obvious that Gus wants nothing to do with Mickey. Their back-and-forth banter is solid but framed by the withholding of key information that later becomes part of the third act "surprise", it simply points to the obvious.
Another concern with Trouble with the Curve is the lack of technical nuances. Lorenzo has been well-prepped by his association with Eastwood and attempts to give his work the same sort of visual punch by adding Eastwood’s long-time cinematographer Tom Stern to the project. The hefty handling of key emotional moments fall flat though and are sometimes – as with the case of Eastwood’s “heartfelt” singing – simply pain-inducing. He also doesn’t compensate for the overused “Hell, I’m old!” jokes with touching scenes between a father and his daughter outside of a few cool getting-to-know-you pitches. Authenticity is ignored in favor of a workhorse mentality and the end result hammers us with a deluge of sometimes too stale material that never has a chance to come into its own.
Trouble with the Curve is a movie, in tone and in spirit, best suited for release during the caustic gritty realism of 1970’s. If released back then, its sugar sweet nothings might have come across better; something different than the standard bloody streets full of pimps and hoes offering. For today’s modern world, it’s swinging for the fences with a script that is too afraid to get its uniform dirty and slide across home plate. Fans of Eastwood, like me, will be rewarded in some scenes and feel robbed by other moments of unimaginative pandering. It would be too easy to give this movie a pass and with old pros like these behind the scenes and on the playing field, I won't.
Trouble with the Curve, well-stocked with corn and clichés, is a feel-good film for the unconscious.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language, sexual references, some thematic material and smoking.
Runtime: 111 mins.
Director: Robert Lorenz
Writer: Randy Brown
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams; Chelcie Ross; Matthew Lillard; John Goodman
Tagline: Whatever Life Throws at You
Memorable Movie Quote: "What are you guys staring at? I'm not a pole dancer."
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Release Date: September 21, 2012
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: No details available
Synopsis: Gus Lobel (Clint Eastwood) has been one of the best scouts in baseball for decades, but, despite his efforts to hide it, age is starting to catch up with him. Nevertheless, Gus—who can tell a pitch just by the crack of the bat—refuses to be benched for what could be the final innings of his career.
He may not have a choice. The front office of the Atlanta Braves is starting to question his judg ment, especially with the country’s hottest batting phenom on deck for the draft. The one person who might be able to help is also the one person Gus would never ask: his daughter, Mickey (Amy Adams), an associate at a high-powered Atlanta law firm whose drive and ambition has put her on the fast track to becoming partner. Mickey has never been close to her father, who was ill-equipped to be a single parent after the death of his wife. Even now, in the rare moments they share, he is too easily distracted by what Mickey assumes is his first love: the game.
Against her better judgment, and over Gus’s objections, Mickey joins him on his latest scouting trip to North Carolina, jeopardizing her own career to save his. Forced to spend time together for the first time in years, each makes new discoveries—revealing long-held truths about their past and present that could change their future.