Trouble with the Curve, a tale of an old baseball scout (Clint Eastwood) reconnecting with his estranged daughter (Amy Adams) on his final recruiting trip, is exactly what you’d expect. In fact, less than halfway through the film I correctly predicted how every single storyline would end. The by-the-book tale is an odd mashup cashing in on the success of Moneyball and Grand Torino (with a romantic comedy thrown in for good measure). Sadly, but not surprisingly, Trouble with the Curve is nothing more than blatant Oscar bait and forgettable feelgood pre-holiday fodder.
Clichéd and as subtle as a kick to the groin, the screenplay by first-time screenwriter Randy Brown doesn’t so much foreshadow events as scream loudly from Hollywood playbook exactly what will occur. Overly sentimental, and not ambitious in the least, the film is a crowd pleaser with well-placed grumpy old man jokes that won’t force audiences to think much (or at all).
The film does nothing to help Eastwood’s image following his recent gaffe at the Republican National Convention. First-time director Robert Lorenz uses his friend (he’s served as an assistant director on several of Eastwood’s films) as stunt casting, nothing more, in a role Eastwood could (and maybe did) do in his sleep. I’m honestly unsure whether Eastwood has more lines or one-liners over the movie’s 111-minute running time.
The setup is simple. Eastwood stars as Gus, a renowned baseball scout with increasingly bad eyesight who time has passed by. Unwilling to compromise with computers, stat crunching, or a new generation of baseball executives, Gus is a dying breed who believe nothing beats judging a player in person. With his position in the Atlanta Braves organization already on dangerous ground for a recent high draft pick (Scott Eastwood) who hasn’t panned out, Gus’ boss and best friend (John Goodman), calls in the grumpy old man’s estranged daughter Mickey (Adams) who puts aside her blossoming legal career to accompany her father on his current road trip to check out the team’s potential first-round draft pick (Joe Massingill).
Over the next 90 minutes Gus and Mickey squabble, make-up, and the squabble some more. Along the way they also encounter Johnny Flanagan (Justin Timberlake) a former Gus draft pick who is now working as a scout for the Angels. Not surprisingly, the all-work-no-play Mickey can’t help but fall for the charming young man who shares her love of inane baseball trivia while trying desperately to reconnect with her father who she’s never forgiven for abandoning her as a child following her mother’s death.
Less than halfway through the movie I knew how Gus and Mickey’s relationship would be resolved, the exact up-and-down basic romcom formula of Johnny and Mickey’s relationship, which player the team would draft and how that would affect both relationships, and how an early cameo by a minor character (Jay Galloway) would resolve every lingering issue and leave the audience with a tightly wrapped happy ending with a bow on top.
There are certainly going to be people who enjoy this movie. Eastwood is fun to watch, even if he’s still doing the same grumpy old man shtick. And Timberlake and Adams work well together, even if their storyline is only slightly better written than any number of forgettable romcoms (filled with overtly cute moments which should come with an insulin shot). There are also a couple of good supporting performances by Goodman (who gives the film’s best performance) and Matthew Lillard as the script’s villain, a young hot shot trying to force himself up the corporate ladder at Gus’ expense.
In the end, the far-too-predictable script by the first-time screenwriter and the lack of any directorial flourish by the first-time director fails to impress. Trouble with the Curve isn’t so much bad as lazy. The movie is nothing more than a pandering and forgettable feelgood flick, and the few attempts at real drama (including the “shocking” flashbacks to Mickey’s childhood) are far and outside, never coming anywhere near home plate.
Simply put, despite a few foul tips, Trouble with the Curve strikes out.