Published on: October 4, 2012
In 2008, Clint Eastwood announced that Gran Torino would be his final acting role, and that he would only continue to work in film as a director. Well, the man with no name has made his grand comeback, albeit in a movie with no personality. Sure, Trouble with the Curve is better than most romantic comedies. Sure, it’s entertaining for a couple hours. But I found myself thinking throughout the film that when Eastwood got out, he should have stayed out, or at least picked an absurdly violent film to make another return. You know, a Clint Eastwood movie.
Eastwood’s character here actually does have a name: Gus Lobel. Lobel is a long-time baseball scout for the Atlanta Braves and has signed most of their greats. In old age, however, he has slowed down considerably and thus not signing enough players and not utilizing the technology that others feel have changed the game.
His daughter, Mickey (Amy Adams), becomes worried that his eyesight is negatively affecting his work. As a result, even though she resents him immensely for not being there for her when she was growing up, even though he still does not seem to want her around and even though she has an insane amount of work to do at her firm in order to get a long-awaited promotion, she accompanies Lobel on a trip to North Carolina to scout a rather boorish but talented high school player. While there, the father and daughter try to come to terms with their relationship as Mickey starts to fall in love with Johnny Flanagan (Justin Timberlake), a former player who was scouted by Lobel and is now a scout himself.
Trouble with the Curve’s most major issue is that it tries to pander to too many different groups at once. The sports and crude jokes are there for young to middle-aged men, the romance is there for young to middle-aged women, and Lobel’s eyesight troubles and general mistrust of technology are obviously there for the old crowd, of both genders. There is nothing wrong with a film having universal themes, but here the diversity of issues feels very forced. You can almost imagine screenwriter Randy Brown’s screenplay drafts littered with self-edits about which demographic he wanted to target next.
The performance qualities are mixed. Once you get past the feeling that Clint Eastwood is completely out of place, you realize that his distant gruffness is still charming. He is not a great actor for this kind of film, and I can think of many better choices, but he still has quite an on-screen presence and manages to add an edge to several powerful scenes.
I cut Amy Adams less slack because I never really find myself convinced by her roles. This is no exception; she overacts in most of her scenes with Eastwood, reducing an emotionally scarred character, with the potential to be subtly performed, to an irritating drama queen. Luckily, Timberlake is so relaxed and confident in his role that Adams calms down around him. John Goodman (who seems to be in everything lately) has a relatively small part as Lobel’s old friend and head of scouting with the Braves, but as usual he manages to steal every one of his scenes.
Admittedly, the most enjoyable part of Trouble with the Curve for me was the baseball. The idea of baseball as a sport that can be still be felt and sensed, dealt with outside of facts and figures, appeals to me very greatly on a personal level. However, I can safely say that even if you are not a sports fan, this is still a decent movie that will give you a couple of hours of mildly interesting distraction. Plus, this may be one of your last chances to see a legend like Clint Eastwood in a new film, so it’s ultimately worth it.