“Trouble With the Curve” has a wonderful cast and absolutely reeks of good intentions, but it’s also slow, talky and relentlessly predictable. That isn’t to say there isn’t anything to like here, but at no point can the viewer expect to be even slightly surprised by anything.
Sports movies are almost always really about something else, and “Trouble With the Curve” is really about fixing a dysfunctional relationship between cranky, aging baseball scout Gus, played by Clint Eastwood (does he ever play anything but cranky these days?), and his workaholic attorney daughter, Mickey, played by Amy Adams. There’s a proud tradition of baseball movies that are about something else, and some of them are classics. Think “Bull Durham,” “Field of Dreams,” “The Natural.” Understand up front we are not in that league here.
Gus is an old school scout for the Atlanta Braves, who eschews computers and his snotty, pompous co-worker Matthew Lillard, who we know immediately is up to no good. Gus is hiding the fact that he’s losing his sight from everyone, but Mickey eventually finds out and despite having to prep for A BIG CASE, follows Gus on the road to help him check out a thoroughly obnoxious prospect.
They also encounter Justin Timberlake, a former discovery of Gus’, now working as a scout for the Boston Red Sox after blowing his arm out. Predictably, he falls madly in love with Mickey, who is hesitating about taking her relationship with her Atlanta lawyer boyfriend to “the next level.” The romantic comedy takes up unnecessary space in what is supposed to be a story about a father and a daughter, but the chemistry is better between Timberlake and Adams than it is between Eastwood and Adams, and Timberlake gives the best performance in the movie. John Goodman is also on hand as an old friend of Gus’ who continues to run interference for him. It bears repeating that the cast is marvelous and the performances provide most of the entertainment value here.
Nonetheless, Adams is actually in her forties and looks younger, which is fine, since her character is supposed to be 33. Eastwood is 82 and looks every millisecond of it, though his character presumably is supposed to be in his sixties. It takes a ginormous suspension of disbelief to think that he’s Mickey’s father rather than grandfather.
The script, by Randy Brown, who has no prior credits, plods clumsily from one dialogue scene to another without any sense of pacing. Hitchcock said that pictures of actors talking was not his idea of cinema, and he had a point. This is also the directorial debut of Robert Lorenz, a longtime exec with Eastwood’s Malpaso production company, and who has been a producer, assistant director and second unit director on numerous Eastwood movies. He does a thoroughly competent and thoroughly unimaginative job.
“Trouble With the Curve” may be a difficult movie to actually dislike, but it hardly hits it out of the park. More like a bunt attempt that grounds out to first.
“Trouble With the Curve” is now showing at theaters across the Capital District, including the Regal Cinemas Crossgates Stadium 18 & IMAX, the Regal Cinemas Latham Circle Mall 10, the Regal Cinemas Clifton Park Stadium 10 & RPX, the Rotterdam Square Cinema, the Regal Cinemas Colonie Center Stadium 13, the Spectrum 7 on Delaware Avenue in Albany and the Regal Cinemas East Greenbush 8.