Trouble With The Curve (2012) Directed by Robert Lorenz. Starring: Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake. IMDB says: “An ailing baseball scout in his twilight years takes his daughter along for one last recruiting trip.”
Sports movies tend to make even the most lightweight of fans of the game feel quite a bit of a emotion. When it’s staged just right, you can’t help feeling all the tension of a big moment or the overwhelming cheer of watching someone’s passion flourishing on screen. Watching last year’s Moneyball (more on this film later) I went through the range of emotions that Billy Beane experienced because the film put you in that moment. Trouble With The Curve fails in all these aspects. Now, the film isn’t strictly a baseball movie. There’s also the family drama and a dose of romance, but those plots don’t really work either.
The film is really about Gus (Eastwood) and about how he’s a really old curmudgeon. He’s a career baseball scout for the Braves, but the new crew, represented by an underutilized Matthew Lillard, want him out so they can use their newfangled technology on those darn computers to help recruit players. Luckily Gus’s friend and direct superior Pete (an also underutilized John Goodman) has his back and is counting on Gus to approve the #1 draft pick for the team so that Gus won’t lose his job at the end of the contract. Seeing as Gus seems to be one month away from being featured on a silver alert, it’s hard to really feel that bad about him being forced into retirement.
Then there’s his relationship with his daughter Mickey (Adams), an attorney working towards becoming partner at her firm. Their relationship is forced and uncomfortable because he’s never really been there for her so the broader story of the film is how they deal with this stressed bond. Of course the one thing they do have in common is the love of baseball. Mickey accompanies Gus on his scouting of the #1 draft pick to make sure all goes well with the selection and he doesn’t drive into a tree. They meet Johnny (Timberlake), an ex-pitcher that Gus scouted years back who’s now scouting for the Red Sox and hoping to move into broadcasting. He immediately takes up the role of love interest for Mickey. Did I mention she’s an uptight professional who really just needs to let her hair down and relax?
All of this doesn’t sound like the worst thing ever on paper, and I even went into it with an open mind from the trailer. The problem is this script (from a first time screenwriter) is the most tiresome rehash of generic scenes from other movies that I’ve seen in a very long time. This script isn’t trying to tell a story per say, but rather trying to be the most movie-est movie it can be. Each scene reminded me that it was very much a scene, and not an original one in the least. So much of the script and characterization is forced that you can’t really connect on any level. The direction isn’t necessarily going for much, but it gratingly tries too hard at times. Just because you use slow-mo on a pitch does not mean the audience is going to go “wow!”. It’s fake drama that doesn’t work because the set up isn’t there. Even the small bit of enjoyment I got when Mickey and Johnny start to banter and show chemistry becomes banal so quickly because the characters do things out of movies, not things that real people do. It got into very bad romantic comedy territory by the end.
Now back to Moneyball, a movie I sincerely enjoyed from last year about the radical changes in baseball using sabremetrics to advance the game from the outdated method of out of touch scouts. Well, this movie is trying to make the exact opposite point of that. Trouble is about the new technology removing the passion from the game, but I couldn’t help but think about how much better of a case Moneyball made in the argument. The thing is, the point Trouble is going for does make some sense, but the movie is so bad it invalidates their attempt.
This film puts many talented actors into rote roles and takes little chances plot-wise, yet it includes an overwhelming amount of lame, flabbergastingly off the wall, or contrived scenes (many times all three at once). Ultimately, Trouble With The Curve is way too stodgy and boring to be worth the watch. I might be too harsh on this movie, but then again I really don’t want you to waste your time.
Trouble With The Curve opens in theaters September 21st.