Is the feel-good baseball flick Trouble With the Curve another Clint Eastwood classic, or is it doomed for the minor leagues? Warning: major plot spoilers ahead.
A common thread binds my favorite sports flicks Field of Dreams and Hoosiers: both suggest that the uniquely-crafted American games upon which they are based are so ingrained into our country's fabric that to remove one would be tantamount to severing a healthy extremity from our bodies. Oscar hopeful Trouble With The Curve challenges us to attach the same significance, but fails in its decidedly dull and slow pace.
Atlanta Braves scout Gus (Clint Eastwood, Heartbreak Ridge) is a crotchety old-school judge of baseball character whose declining health becomes a concern to daughter Mickey (Amy Adams, The Muppets) and Gus' boss Pete Klein (John Goodman, O Brother, Where Art Thou?). Klein and family go way back, but Gus is on the hot seat to return a positive review of top prospect Bo Gentry (Joe Massingill, Glee). Mickey, a Baseball Brat who traveled with dad for years before being inexplicably sent home, enjoys a difficult relationship with Gus while trying to climb the career ladder at her law firm. Raised on ballgame hot dogs and smoky pool halls, Mickey's tough exterior hides the deep scars of a childhood denied, which still wrecks havoc upon her personal life. Mickey meets the washed up pitcher-turned-scout Johnny (Justin Timberlake, In Time), who's hoping to transition to the broadcast booth and is enamored by Mickey's curves and big-city personality. As pressure mounts from sleezy front-office douche Phillip Sanderson (Matthew Liliard, The Descendants) to pick Gentry in the upcoming draft, Gus and Mickey scout the prospect together in the hopes of rescuing their broken relationship.
Rather than assuming the director's chair, Eastwood relies on newcomer Robert Lorenz to keep things moving, which is no small task considering the immense talent which has been assembled. From the senior-aged fellow scouts (Chelcie Ross, Ed Lauter, and George Wyner) to the steely-eyed Braves President (Robert Patrick), Lorenz struggles to give each actor sufficient time in front of the camera, relegating them to disappointingly minor roles instead of providing meaningful breaks for our leads. In many ways, their additions feel more like distractions that plague Writer Randy Brown's easily predictable script more than once. Other elements provide audiences with few surprises, generating feel-good content rather than stretching the genre in a new inventive direction. A statement about growing old hits a foul ball, a revelation about Gus' abrupt exit from Mickey's life strikes out; in the end, one realizes that the real story, the love of the game of baseball, should have been the emphasis all along. Adams and Eastwood have good chemistry, but Timberlake is clearly out of his league with a mousy performance that feels all wrong. Lilliard and Massingill are just plain annoying, and it's not long before you wish someone would throw an errand bat their way in an effort to spice up Lorenz's dull pace.
Trouble With The Curve suggests that no computer can account for the human element in baseball scouting, a fact which I heartily agree; this is the script's greatest strength, solidifying that argument with each clang of the ball against an aluminum bat, as Gus and Mickey deconstruct Gentry with laser-like precision. Unfortunately, the film fails to achieve more than a sharp single to left, stranded behind an implausible scenario that the motel cleaning boy who also sells peanuts at the game is the next big thing. Instead of a timeless classic about our love for the game of baseball, Trouble With The Curve misses every opportunity presented to it, happy to play it safe and becoming another forgettable film the moment the theatre lights come up. The film is rated PG-13 for language and sexual situations, and has a runtime of 111 minutes.
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