Gus Lobel (Clint Eastwood) is an old school scout for the Atlanta Braves well past retirement age who lives for his job in a shifting landscape. When he's tapped to scout the Red Sox's potential number 1 draft pick, his boss and old buddy Pete (John Goodman) wonders if he's up to it, so nudges Gus's semi-estranged daughter Mickey (Amy Adams) into accompanying him. Gus's eyesight is failing, Mickey's up for a hotly competed law partnership and they're both about to have "Trouble with the Curve."
Eastwood steps down from the director's chair this time around, giving Robert Lorenz, the guy who assisted him from "The Bridges of Madison County" through "Million Dollar Baby" a shot at bat, and the producer/star gets a walk. Costar Amy Adams gives the film some real sizzle, but the screenplay, the first produced for writer/producer Randy Brown, is awfully formulaic. "Trouble with the Curve" won't be winning any awards, but it is a crowd pleaser and Clint's lost none of his crusty charm.
This is an Eastwood style old fashioned film, the anti-"Moneyball" where octogenarian baseball scouts prove the computer geeks wrong. There are triple-play conflicts at work here. Firstly there's Gus and Pete against Phillip Sanderson (Matthew Lillard, "The Descendants"), gunning not only for Pete's director of scouting job but the GM's office. Head honcho Vince (Robert Patrick, "Terminator 2") wants hot high school player Bo Gentry (Joe Massingill) should the Sox pass, and Phil's determined to make it happen. Then there's Gus, Mickey and their respective career conflicts. Mickey's mom died when she was six and she feels like dad abandoned her often because of his job. Nowadays he doesn't see much of her because of the demands of hers. When Mickey gets her dad's long time doctor to spill the beans and discovers he's probably got both macular degeneration and glaucoma, she puts her potential partnership on the line to ensure Gus gets his job done in North Carolina. Then there's Mickey's romantic life. She's been seeing a fellow attorney who's looking for commitment (don't forget those abandonment issues!). Then she meets one of her dad's former proteges, Johnny 'the Flame' Flanagan (Justin Timberlake), a pitcher whose arm burnt out now scouting for the Sox. If you have any trouble seeing where any of this is going, you may have Gus's eyesight.
Although Clint uses his signature growl, this isn't the same character we saw in "Gran Torino." Gus is angry about aging, kicking the furniture he cannot see (rather than any occupants we may not), hiding the magnifying glass he needs to read the papers, stubbornly refusing to hand over his car keys. He's afraid of what might fail him and haunted by something in the past (triggered by the memory of a horse running head on) we know will eventually lead to Mickey. If the screenplay's formula, it at least features some snappy dialogue for Adams to pitch. She's no slouch defending herself in her office or in a barroom and she looks believable around he diamond. Timberlake is appealing without pushing it. Goodman's the film's fairy godmother. Ed Lauter ("The Artist"), Chelcie Ross ("Drag Me to Hell") and Raymond Anthony Thomas ("Pariah") are amusing as Gus's old geezer Greek chorus.
We're clued in immediately that Bo's not the right bat boy because he treats the high school classmate who's selling peanuts dismissively. We've met Rigo Sanchez (Jay Galloway) already - he's the eldest son of the immigrant motel owner where Gus and Mickey are staying and the early highlighting of the character only to keep him on the bench until the last inning is awkward. The event haunting Gus also comes up just often enough to feel like an inserted 'oh yeah, this' until it's finally dragged out for the big father/daughter healing moment.
"Trouble with the Curve" is the anti-"Moneyball," a by the numbers, old fashioned entertainment that may show its seams but still has plenty of play.
Robin did not see this film.
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