Trouble with the Curve
Thanks to the recent speech at the Republican National Convention in which the former Dirty Harry berated a chair holding an invisible Barack Obama, going into a movie starring Clint Eastwood as a technophobe who has trouble not walking into tables and chairs on a daily basis isn't exactly a setup for success. But, believe it or not, it's actually not that unfortunate context that's the problem: from the clunky script and pacing, to Clint's ever-present grumble and the film's predictable plot, Trouble with the Curve is a slow pitch right down the middle.
And this is coming from someone who loves baseball movies so much she's suffered through Kevin Costner's For the Love of the Game - twice. But Trouble isn't really a baseball movie. It's a sappy father-daughter relationship tale with baseball as the hook and the caulk filling in the film's cracks.
Gus (Eastwood) is one of the oldest, most respected scouts in the game, but he's getting old, his eyes are going, and some twerp with a laptop (Matthew Lillard) and his frat boy henchman are determined to shove Gus out of his position at the Atlanta Braves and replace him with a computer (muah-ha-ha). His daughter Mickey (Amy Adams), who he named after Mickey Mantle because that's how much he loves baseball, is trying to make partner at her law firm in a pool of misogynistic bigwigs, when she's called down to North Carolina to help her dad at the behest of his boss and best friend (John Goodman). While she should be working things out with her pops, a young scout named Jimmy (Justin Timberlake) shows up, flirts with Mickey, and steals the storyline for the entire middle section of the film.
While Eastwood's growling, grumbling demeanor are perfect for the role of a stalwart old man who refuses to give up the game he once knew, he's saddled with stale jokes and quips - you may know them as "dad jokes" - that undermine his ability to be the wise man who knows better than these young whippersnappers. Adams does the best she can with a role that asks little more than for her to be smart, sassy, and outspoken, but it simply feels like the role was over-cast. Timberlake's character is plagued with Gus' same brand of dad jokes, but luckily for us, the former boy bander is oozing with enough charm to make any joke, no matter how terrible, funny enough to make us fall in love with him - for an hour and half, anyway.
Script issues aside, where the film really starts to lose its way is in its portrayal of Lillard's young, ladder-climbing villain. At one point, they even show him sitting in a dark room, backlit by a lone desk lamp as he instructs his henchman to keep spying on Gus. All that's missing is a maniacal laugh and a fluffy cat on his lap for him to stroke with his ruby-ring-decked hand.
It's this hyperbolic villainy, coupled with the treatment of Gus' mortal enemy (technology), paired with two battling relationship stories (Timberlake and Adams vs. Eastwood and Adams), and the slow, plodding pace that keep this film from being what it should be: a perfectly sweet, predictable popcorn flick.
Trouble would be a perfectly adequate movie to casually watch on a Sunday afternoon with your dad, but then again, you could just get Field of Dreams on Blu-ray just as easily.
[Photo Credit: Warner Bros]
Hollywood.com rated this film 2 stars.