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Trouble with the Curve, Clint Eastwood’s latest outing, is a movie Hollywood can be proud of. Despite its lack of a decent script or a believable plot structure, this predictable baseball flick is still a good time thanks to the endearing romance of Amy Adams and Justin Timberlake. If ever three talented actors were wasted on an insipid film, this would be it.
Who would knowingly make a movie about the superiority of traditional baseball know-how over computer-generated statistics only a year after Moneyball? Clint Eastwood would, apparently, as that’s the general point of Trouble with the Curve. Directed by Eastwood’s former right-hand man Robert Lorenz, the movie is equal parts griping about youngsters ruining the game and father-daughter bonding between Eastwood and Amy Adams. Both parts are perfectly amiable; neither part is particularly interesting.
Gus Lobel (Eastwood) is an aging scout for the Atlanta Braves with a resentful lawyer for a daughter, Mickey (Adams). When the doctor tells Gus he has glaucoma, Mickey doesn’t force him to see a specialist, but instead decides to tag along on his latest scouting trip as an extra set of eyes. Along the way, they catch up with Johnny Flanagan (Justin Timberlake), a former pitcher whose career ended prematurely with a torn rotator cuff, and who is now a half-hearted scout for the Red Socks.
Despite ostensibly focusing on the reconnection of father and daughter, those sections are the least credible aspect of the film. Eastwood and Adams try their best, but there is little they can do when the screenplay is a catalog of stale reflections and bland platitudes. Mickey soon resorts to rehashing her revelations from therapy with Gus, which is as awkward and labored as it sounds. And while realism is hardly requisite for a good movie, it’s hard to ignore that even if the two do reconcile, glaucoma is not curable by a smile from Adams. And while we’re on the subject of believability, am I the only one who thinks it’s odd that an 82-year-old is still working? As Gus’ finds continue to fail, the big wigs suggest that Gus go into “early retirement.” If this is early retirement, when’s late, at his centennial?
Eastwood is as good as ever, although the consistency of his appeal is compromised by a part that doesn’t quite suit his persona. Yes, he’s an old great discounted by uppity newcomers, and yes, he is a curmudgeon with a heart of gold. But playing a grouch is not the same as playing a badass, and Eastwood seems out of place in this relatively mild role. Twenty minutes into the movie, Gus visits his wife’s grave and sings her a song. While sweet, the moment is premature and heavy-handed, as if he were wearing a neon sign over his head reading “irascible sweetheart.” Eastwood normally plays men of action, but in Trouble with the Curve he plays a man full of grumbled complaints.
The focus, therefore, falls on the romance of Johnny and Mickey, which unlike the rest of the film, is engaging and endearing. The two actors have great chemistry, bantering with ease and deftly selling the slow build of their attraction. Adams plays her part well, but spends so much time scowling and worrying that the lovable girl of Junebug and Enchanted never gets a chance to shine. Believe it or not, Justin Timberlake is the best part of the movie. With unlimited charisma, an impish character, and all the best lines (the other two are too busy quibbling to quip), he steals scenes by just showing up and flashing a mischievous grin.
Trouble with the Curve is like an afternoon of baseball: the game is a little dull, but thanks to your friends and the concession stand, you manage to enjoy yourself anyway. Who knows what any of these three actors saw in this film, but together they keep it from being a complete waste of time.
The Blu-ray and DVD combo pack comes with two featurettes, each running under five minutes, and neither worth watching. In the first, Timberlake and Adams talk about playing an on-screen couple in respectful, professional terms that make it clear that there was no hint of off-screen romance (as well there shouldn’t have been: both actors were happily engaged at the time of shooting).
The second feature is on director Robert Lorenz’s long tenure as part of Eastwood’s production team, first as an assistant director and then a producer, finally making his directorial debut in Trouble with the Curve. Lorentz clearly sees himself as a true filmmaker, maybe even the next big thing, but to borrow from Breaking Bad, just because he shot with Clint Eastwood doesn't make him Clint Eastwood. If this film is any indication, he has a long, long way to go.
Finally, the pack also includes a redemption code for an UltraViolet copy--the site which gives you the ability to access your movie online, as well as link the film to your Flixster account. I can see the appeal of this service for a film you wanted to rewatch or show to friends, but since this flick is probably neither of those things, using UltraViolet would probably be pretty pointless.
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