Review by The Isolated Moviegoer:
Baseball may be America’s Pastime, but it’s tough to find die-hard supporters these days. Unlike the more hard-hitting and up-tempo football and basketball, the sport is a slow one, requiring patience and focus that run counter to our attention deficit society. The game also has its share of recent controversy, leaving longtime fans feeling betrayed, and forcing some to abandon their old standby. Now comes Trouble With the Curve, a baseball film so bad that it threatens to alienate more people from the sport than the steroid era and ’94 strike combined.
A debut effort for both director Robert Lorenz and screenwriter Randy Brown, the film is a pandering mess of cliche characters and situations. The draw here is Clint Eastwood, playing his standard lovable grump. This iteration is named Gus and is employed as a scout for the Atlanta Braves. Nearing the end of a legendary career, his eyesight is failing and the higher-ups sense he’s losing his touch.
Worried as to what might become of a retired Gus, his boss Pete (John Goodman) convinces Gus’ estranged daughter Mickey (Amy Adams) to accompany her father on a crucial scouting trip to North Carolina. In the Blue Ridge, they’re joined by Johnny (Justin Timberlake), a former prospect of Gus’ now eyeing talent for the Red Sox. As the amateur draft nears and Gus has to decide whether a can’t-miss high schooler is worthy of the Braves’ first round pick, Trouble With the Curve plays to the lowest common denominator of AARP-approved heart and humor, and quickly turns into one of the most cloying crowd-pleasers in recent film.
Despite the big-name cast, the characters they portray are predictable, one-note beings who reveal their Creative Writing 101 types the instant they step onscreen. Playing directly to these tired conventions, it’s frustratingly clear that familial, romantic, and business storylines will all have Disney endings, plus slap egg on the faces of the less savory characters. Every single puzzle piece falls into place, and this is one of those giant 6-piece jigsaws popular in preschools. Perhaps it’s the perfect film for ADD viewers after all, baseball-related or not.
Further plaguing Trouble With the Curve is the believability of Mickey devoting such attention to an all out terrible father. Gus, who sent her off to boarding school after his wife died, exhibits a near Asperger’s level of clueless rudeness toward his daughter and practically bristles at her presence. Their relationship infuriates Mickey, yet she’s willing to pause her law career and put her pending partnership at risk to help the jerk? If that jerk is Clint Eastwood, maybe so.
Onscreen after a four year hiatus, Eastwood operates on two levels, pissed off and really pissed off, literally grunting his way through numerous scenes. The line between acting and “just being Clint” is murkier than ever here, and his spoken word rendition of “You Are My Sunshine” is an “SNL” parody waiting to happen. Adams, an actress of maddeningly limited range, isn’t any better, and the supporting cast (including Goodman, Matthew Lillard, and Robert Patrick) treats the film like a read-through, bringing zero spirit to their line-readings. Timberlake at least offers a trace of personality. A born performer, he does what he can with weak material, but even he can’t rescue some truly unfortunate baseball trivia back-and-forths with Adams, the likes of which would make Kevin Smith and Richard Linklater cringe.
The Bud Light of baseball movies, Trouble With the Curve is as lightweight and tasteless as they come. Best to stick with more hearty fare, lest the game’s integrity be tarnished any more than it already has.
Rated PG-13 for language, sexual references, some thematic material and smoking.
Trouble With the Curve is currently playing at the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Rd.
For more film reviews, visit The Isolated Moviegoer.