Baseball was the only sport I ever played growing up. And I was only able to force myself to play through one season. I just am not what you would call a sports nut in any way, shape, or form. For some reason, though, I have a pretty high tolerance for sports films. Maybe it’s the fact that most of them are either comedies or treat whatever sport it is like an action film. But for every Bull Durham or Happy Gilmore comes films much like the new Clint Eastwood-starring Trouble with the Curve. A film that feels like it was “made 30 years ago,” to quote a colleague.
Gus (Eastwood) is an over-the-hill talent scout for the Atlanta Braves. He has a failing prostate, diminishing eyesight, and eats Spam for breakfast right out of the can. His rocky relationship with his daughter Mickey (Amy Adams) isn’t any better than with his prostate ever since her mother died in 1984.
Word has spread about high school power hitter Bo Gentry (Joe Massingill, an appropriate last name as there ever was for someone playing a huge douche and who throws around the term “bangin’” ad nauseam). Pete Klein (John Goodman), Gus’s best friend of 30 years and co-worker, sends him to check out Bo. Meanwhile, Pete finds out that Gus isn’t in the best of shape and sends Mickey along with him. There’s also a subplot revolving around Phillip Sanderson (Matthew Lillard) gunning to be the Braves’ General Manager who believes that computers are the future of scouting.
Along the way, Gus and Mickey meet up with Johnny “The Flame” (Justin Timberlake) who’s out to watch Bo for the Boston Red Sox. It isn’t long before life lessons are learned, comeuppances rear their unintentionally hilarious head, and out of left field (and out of place) pedophilia shows up to ruin what might have been salvaged had the film stuck to the only thing that works for even a second — the bantering between Mickey and Johnny.
Unfortunately, just when things look like they might be finally kicking up a notch, at least in the pace department, they cut back to the Gus/Mickey dynamic of which there is none. Which is a shame because Timberlake shows he’s still as likeable as ever and Adams is trying to be as radiant as possible even though in some scenes she looks like she’s about ready to fall asleep trying to act against the horribly aging Eastwood.
At one point Johnny tells Mickey, “You need to lighten up,” and it sounds more like he’s speaking to the whole crew. The whole film feels like Grumpiest Old Men at the Ball Park, but at least then it would have starred the late and great Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon and would have been intentionally funny. It also feels like first time writer Randy Brown is trying to graft this same line of thought onto a Moneyball rip-off. But Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin he most definitely is not. Even Grumpy Old Men scribe Mark Steven Johnson could have found something better for anyone in the film to do more than director Robert Lorenz (also making his debut after spending years working as Eastwood’s protégé) does than simply have Eastwood amble around and growl through gritted teeth with his trademark scowl. Eastwood needs to start playing a zombie before people start to think he may actually be one. The bottom line here is the true Trouble with the Curve winds up being just about everything.
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