Trouble with the Curve (2012) / Drama-Comedy

MPAA rated: PG-13 for language, some thematic material, sexual references, and smoking
Length: 111 min.

Cast: Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, Matthew Lillard, Robert Patrick, Chelcie Ross, Ed Lauter, Raymond Anthony Thomas, Bob Gunton, Joe Massingill, Jay Galloway
Director: Robert Lorenz
Screenplay: Randy Brown
Review published February 9, 2013

Trouble with the Curve Eastwood 2012Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby, Blood Work) stars as Gus Lobel, a cantankerous, widower baseball scout for the Atlanta Braves organization at the potential end of his career with only three months left on his current contract, thanks to possible macular degeneration in his eyes and his stubbornly antiquated system of scouting that goes more by gut instinct than in computer numbers crunching. His career, as well as his wishes for his only daughter, workaholic lawyer Mickey (Adams, The Master), who is set to become a partner in her law firm, have caused him to keep her at more than an arm's distance, even when she follows him to North Carolina to check out Bo Gentry (Massingill) one of the hottest young unsigned batting prospects in baseball to see if they should pick him as their first-rounder in the draft. Gus has taught Mickey quite a lot about baseball over the years, and she aims to help him with his latest assignment, but being away may cost her the vaunted spot as a partner if she isn't prepared for her upcoming big case.

A sort of anti-Moneyball idea, Trouble with the Curve is the first Eastwood-starring vehicle in nearly two decades without the actor also behind the camera as director (his last time was in 1993's In the Line of Fire), and, though he does serve as one of the producers, the lack of his keen eye behind the camera shows. Despite first-time director Robert Lorenz's long-time association with Eastwood as his assistant director and producer, he doesn't quite have that Eastwood prowess behind the camera to keep things moving along, and Trouble with the Curve languishes through scene after scene in a mostly stagnant fashion. If not for the stars, it would feel like a made-for-TV movie.

Much of this is the fault of the stale screenplay, with a script by first-timer Randy Brown, which is so by-the-numbers that it allows for few surprises and even fewer genuine moments of laughs or drama. Once you see that Gentry and his father are arrogant SOB's, you can pretty much guess that the title of the film will come into play during the climax. The actors give it their all, but with trite dialogue and lackluster direction, the likeability of the performers just isn't quite enough to save the film from certain mediocrity, especially as the story takes an unnecessarily dark turn in order to try to explain away the rift between Gus and Mickey since her childhood years. They deserve much better.

Eastwood is Eastwood as we generally expect him, amusingly cranky and stubborn, while Adams does the best she can in a role that makes her out to be some sort of tomboy prodigy at nearly anything she does, except for the commitment problems she has with the opposite sex. Of course, that is remedied with the introduction of a superfluous former pitching ace-turned-baseball scout named Johnny Flanagan (Timberlake, In Time) , who keeps an eye on Gus, but finds it hard to do when both of his eyes are on daughter Mickey instead. It's not much of a role, but Timberlake's natural charm and energy makes up for a lot.

While it's hard to pass completely on a film with such a likeable cast, I would call Trouble with the Curve a "lazy Sunday afternoon" movie, which to me means the kind of innocuous movie one puts on when they don't want to think too deeply or have to pay strict attention to still follow along. The stars are always fun to watch, who give quality performances even if the material is clichéd while the jokes are trite, and the baseball backstory is generally amiable. In baseball terms, it's not a strikeout, but more like a shallow pop fly -- it makes contact, but doesn't go far enough to be a hit. 
Qwipster's rating:  

©2013 Vince Leo