Trouble With The Curve’s star Clint Eastwood hung-up his acting spurs after 2008’s Gran Torino. That was it, apparently, for the man who had become nothing less than a Hollywood icon thanks to roles such as The Man With No Name, Dirty Harry and countless other gravel-voiced injected performances. But then long-time producing partner Robert Lorenz, who helped Eastwood on films such as Million Dollar Baby, Mystic River and J. Edgar, needed a leading star for his directorial debut. And when you’re looking for a grumpy, bitter and twisted old man who is immediately likeable to the audience, there are few better than Eastwood.
Eastwood is Gus, a baseball scout for the Atlanta Braves, whose contract is up in three months and whose eyesight is rapidly failing him. He’s a dying breed among a system more interested in stats and analysis rather than gut instinct and a life-long passion for the game. Heading on the road to scout a hotshot hitter that his team may pick in the upcoming first draft, Gus finds himself chaperoned by his high-flying lawyer, daughter Mickey (Amy Adams) and running into former pitcher, and now rival scout, Johnny (Justin Timberlake). With father and daughter not getting on, and Johnny’s flirtations towards Mickey being shot-down, it’s not a happy time. But Mickey’s legal career is taking a swan dive while she looks after dear-old-dad and soon the daddy issues hit home. But can Mickey and Gus set aside their differences to find The Braves a genuine talent or are they simply there scouting a false hope?
Trouble With The Curve is essentially a sports movie by numbers. You’ve got the underdog, Gus, the arrogant newbie, in the shape of Matthew Lillard’s head scout, and you’ve got the plucky chick just trying to find her place in the world. It’s predictable to the point where a character turns up early doors, clearly has baseball skills, only to shrink away for the majority of the film. Do you really think that kindhearted character who wouldn’t say boo to a goose isn’t going to return later to prove dear old Gus and Mickey right? Course he is. You just have to wait for the plot to get there.
But, as predictable as Trouble With The Curve is, it’s never anything less than fun. Lorenz’s direction is straightforward, workmanlike TV movie fare. He doesn’t try anything flashy, only in the dying moments does he dare venture into the almost cliché sports movie staple of slow motion and it’s used sparingly enough to emphasise rather than infuriate. Instead the characters are allowed to take centre stage and they’re all likable enough that even when you see plot points coming like a granny throwing you a slow-ball you don’t care. You just wait for the performances to knock it out the park which they just about do.
Eastwood is typically curmudgeonly, growling at his colleagues and daughter and grunting inaudible lines when he’s proved wrong. Adams is cookie-cutter cute with just enough edge to stand up to Eastwood while Timberlake is so charming and perfect you wonder how it takes Adams an almost two hour running time to come round to his advances.
Predictable but never anything less than fun, Trouble With The Curve doesn’t hit it out of the park but does enough to at least get on base.
(Check out the trailer and clips below)