While Clint Eastwood has recently been grabbing headlines with his RNC “empty chair” speech, let’s try to remember that this guy is one of the greats.
Many believed Eastwood, a master-class actor and director, had made his grand exit from acting with 2008’s deeply affecting “Gran Torino.” But roughly four years later, Eastwood is back in his longtime collaborator’s (Robert Lorenz) first directorial effort.
“Trouble with the Curve” suffers from its silly desire to be too much at once. First-time director Lorenz wanted this movie to be a moving sports drama, an affecting story about family and a 90s-era Disney comedy with bite. The film takes an almost Hallmark-ian approach to its material, giving its characters forced relationships, contrived dialogue and eye-rolling sentimentality. It’s a hammy affair, for sure – one anchored in a sea of sap.
Eastwood stars as Gus Lobel, a veteran talent scout for the Atlanta Braves who is on the other end of his career. After realizing that his eyesight might be not up to par with that of a younger individual, he decides to make one last trip to North Carolina to see if a highly regarded high school player is worth a top draft pick.
Eastwood’s busybody lawyer daughter Mickey (Amy Adams), who doesn’t exactly have a close relationship with her grumbly pop, reluctantly joins her father on the trip to help him with the scouting process (at the behest of John Goodman’s concerned head of scouting, Pete). While there, the duo runs into Justin Timberlake’s affable Johnny Flannigan (a fellow scout and former player), who, naturally, takes a liking to Mickey.
Performance wise, we really don’t get anything to be excited about. Eastwood is fine. He really doesn’t venture outside of the box with the performance, but it never feels like a walk through. He gave it effort, and it shows. The character is weak, but the performance does what it can.
Adams gets a thanklessly undercooked role as Mickey. Her character utilizes all the clichés of a working thirty-something single woman in limbo. It’s a role we’ve seen 100 times to greater avail.
I never really bought the relationship between Gus and Mickey, either. The dynamic to their connection never blossoms, relying too heavily on their poorly written back-and-forth to establish a sense of audience sympathy/understanding. A fairly surprising reveal toward the end helps pave some of the bumps, but still, these were characters I rarely gave any interest in. It’s soap opera writing at its worst, and sure, my eyes were exhausted from rolling.
Timberlake doesn’t earn any jeers as Flannigan (he’s actually a welcome presence), but the more interesting aspects of his character take the backseat to his ‘because we had to’ romantic endeavors with Mickey. He also strangely disappears for most of the third act, creating a forced return that never really clicks. Goodman gets the best notices out of the bunch as Pete, but his screen time is limited, as is the underused Matthew Lillard, who plays the film’s “villain,” a stat hound who hopes to run the old school way of scouting out of the Atlanta clubhouse.
Even though performances drive the movie, the writing gets the bulk of my frustration. Writer Randy Brown (who, according to IMDB, is a newbie), has no idea what he wants his screenplay to be. His humor rarely sticks, his focus is far off base and his sentiment never fully earns what it hopes to.
We get sloppy juxtaposition in the film’s plotting, including the strange inclusion of a story arc for the grade school recruit (it’s maddening how stupid it is).
You know, what? I’ll just say it. “Trouble with the Curve” was just so effortlessly boring. These problems all play a part, but man, I wish there had been a clock in the theater so I could have seen how much longer I had until the closing credits.
Now, this isn’t an awful-awful film (there are a few moments that could be considered sweet), but it’s disappointingly dull. Some crowds might eat the cheesiness up, but for now, I’ll take my cinematic burger without any dairy products.
While “Trouble with the Curve” means well, the film never aims to be anything more than a Saturday afternoon Hallmark offering. The saccharine melodrama waned on me as those minutes passed by, hoping that this film didn’t end up going into extra innings.
Thankfully, we got out after nine.