Trouble With The Curve review

Review Ron Hogan 17 Sep 2012 - 06:37

Clint Eastwood returns to acting once more, alongside Amy Adams and Justin Timberlake in Trouble With The Curve. So: any good?

Gus Lobel (Clint Eastwood) has dedicated his entire life to the game of baseball, and he's one of the best talent scouts the game has ever seen. He knows a good player from a bad one, and he's got the resume to prove it. Unfortunately, the older Gus gets, the more it seems that his resume is all he's got. It's been a while since Gus signed a top-notch prospect, but he still knows the game of baseball even if his eyesight isn't what it used to be.

Gus knows baseball, but not parenting. Just ask his daughter Mickey (Amy Adams), a young lawyer working seven days a week to try to make the leap from associate to partner at her prestigious law firm. She's a workaholic who has trouble connecting to people, most of all her father. However, after a concerned phone call from one of Gus's oldest friends, she heads off to the woods of South Carolina where Bo Gentry (Joe Massingil) is tearing up the minors and angling for a top draft pick slot.

Gentry has the scouts at every game, but the Boston Red Sox' scout Johnny Flanagan (Justin Timberlake) may be more interested in Mickey than in the baseball-crushing bruiser's Major League potential. This may be the most important draft pick Gus may ever make, because it might be his last pick as a baseball scout; it's the most important pick Flanagan may ever make, because getting a great prospect at the top of the draft will make his career. As for Mickey, she's working on a big case that may help her make partner.

This is a very important weekend for all three, for many different reasons.

One of the strongest points of Trouble With The Curve is its cast. The cast assembled for this film is absolutely brilliant, starting with the leads. Clint Eastwood has made a career out of playing tough old men, which is a natural considering he was born at age 35 after punching his way out of his mother with a squint and a scowl. He's aged into America's cranky grandfather, but he's got a way of delivering a funny line in that deadpan growl that consistently strikes comedy gold. Say what you will about the man in the wake of his weird improvised political rally/performance art piece at the Republican National Convention, but he's still a film presence and he more than acquits himself well here. As for Amy Adams, she's a known property in romantic comedies, able to elevate any material with her skill and style; she's a firecracker opposite Eastwood, and they make a convincing daddy and daughter. As for Justin Timberlake, he's still not a great actor, but he's a great leading man. I don't believe him in the slightest when he tries to have an emotional outburst, but as a charming, witty, handsome guy seducing a pretty girl with light comedy? He's great.

The supporting players are also really good. It's nice to see John Goodman, and he's the lead of the three big supporting players with the Braves, alongside Robert Patrick (looking like a young Chris Cooper) as the general manager and Matthew Lillard as the Moneyball stats geek with no concept of baseball on the field. They're limited, but Goodman especially is effective. It would have been nice to see more of them, especially Patrick and Lillard, but the movie is already dancing a delicate balance between romantic comedy and sports flick.

It would take a terrible director and awful script to derail this crew of skilled actors, and thankfully, that's not the case. While director Robert Lorenz has never helmed his own movie before, he spent most of his career as Clint Eastwood's second director/assistant director and it shows. The movie uses its environments well, isn't rushed, and plays out like it was done by a more experienced hand. It seems to run a little long at 111 minutes, and there are a few clunky moments in first-timer Randy Brown's script, but the movie is careful not to take away from the strength of its cast.

Part sports movie, part family drama, part romantic comedy, Trouble With The Curve wears a lot of hats, and while it doesn't manage to do any of its jobs perfectly, it manages to get all those various genres mostly right. The baseball sections involving Bo Gentry and Billy Clark (Scott Eastwood) are a bit superfluous and could have probably been cut (especially Gentry's), but it wasn't a fatal flaw. A good, solid movie, then.

US Correspondent Ron Hogan is glad to see Eastwood back on script and not doing improv with a chair. Justin Timberlake might be a little wooden, but he's not that wooden. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.

3

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