Trouble with the Curve

The trouble with Trouble with the Curve is pretty simple. Can a cornball movie with a script that’s just about as trite and predictable as they come be saved by Amy Adams and Clint Eastwood?

There’s certainly a segment of the movie-going population that will eat up the movie despite itself; it’s cute, charming, and every other synonym for pleasant that you can come up with. But with four-time Oscar winner Eastwood and three-time nominee Adams, we deserve something more than light and fluffy and tied up with a pretty little bow.

Eastwood is Gus, a long-time (and we mean long-time) scout for the Atlanta Braves baseball team. With three months left in his contract, failing eyesight, and a mentality that makes Luddites look technologically advanced, he heads out for yet another summer of perching on bleachers in farm league stadiums, watching for the next big thing. Moneyball, meet your exact opposite.

When Gus’ boss Pete (John Goodman) begins to sense that the old man may not have it anymore, he calls on Gus’ estranged daughter Mickey (Adams) to find out. Mickey, despite the fact that she’s gunning for a partnership in her law firm, decides to risk it and try to re-connect with dad.

Along the way they meet up with Johnny (Justin Timberlake), a former pitcher who Gus scouted and is now a scout himself for Boston.

Yes, sparks fly between Mickey and Johnny. Yes, Mickey’s prospect of becoming partner gets pushed to the breaking point, and yes, Gus and Mickey have plenty of stubborn moments with each other. There’s not much at all that’s original here, including third act feel-good resolutions of every single plot and subplot.

The script by first-timer Randy Brown is quite frankly cheesier than a bowl of fondue and stale as week-old bread. But the fact that the cast is able to rise above it (and somewhat save what would have been a disaster in less-capable hands) is a testament to Eastwood’s enduring talents and Adams’ and Timberlake’s standing as two of the better young(ish) talents at work today.

Sure, there are a few moments here that will get to you, including a touching scene when Gus visits the grave of his late wife. And there’s also a fun bit where Eastwood and real-life son Scott (playing a struggling minor-leaguer) talk about the importance of family. But those moments are the exception rather than the rule.

Novice director Robert Lorenz (who’s produced Eastwood’s last 11 movies and has served as assistant director on a handful more) overcomes the script to keep things moving at a decent clip, and he’s got a good eye for the details of life in the farm leagues. If there’s any justice, his career as a director will last a lot longer than Brown’s as a screenwriter.

Why Eastwood would come out of acting retirement for this, four years after Gran Torino, is a bit of a mystery, but give the man credit– no one else can deliver every line with a whisper and a squint and still be compelling. Hopefully he has at least one more quality start in him; it would be a shame if Trouble with the Curve is our last memory of one of the all-time greats.

2.5/5 stars