NEW YORK – Clint Eastwood plus America's pastime should have been a grand slam, but the tender yet predictable drama “Trouble with the Curve” is more of a stand up double.
Eastwood plays Gus, a seasoned baseball scout for the Atlanta Braves who lives, breathes and feels the sport, compared to his younger, computer savvy colleagues who only see the game according to spreadsheets and databases. Hiding his failing eyesight from his employers, who are gunning to replace him when his contract expires, Gus is given one final chance to prove the classic way to scout a player is more effective than any computer analysis.
When sent to scout Bo Gentry, a truly obnoxious punk high school player with a clear future as a home run king, Gus is intercepted by his daughter Mickey (Amy Adams), who has put her professional and personal life on hold to guide her ailing father.
Unlike last year’s baseball scout movie “Moneyball,” “Trouble with the Curve” doesn’t illuminate the survive-by-the-second intensity of scouting for the big leagues. Instead, it uses the profession as a backdrop to an intimate family drama. The film is less about whether or not Gus will win the day as an old-school scout, and more of an exploration of the relationship between a father and daughter, though we are still given those nuggets of suspense as to whether or not near-blind Gus will eventually make the right call.
Eastwood, though charmingly grumpy and brimming with vitriol, steps back in "Curve" and lets Adams take center stage. The actress, also currently co-starring in “The Master,” hits her role out of the park. At first we see her as a flustered and bitter workaholic. As the film progresses she transforms into a vulnerable, but angry, daughter, before inhabiting the returned innocence of a young girl in love with baseball. Watching Adams drop her guard and join Eastwood in the love of the game is a real treat. Between her performance here and in “The Master,” it won’t be long before she’s an Oscar winner.
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As expected, Eastwood is Eastwood. He still delivers one-liners better than anyone. Though he’s aged, he hasn’t lost that spark.
Justin Timberlake also spices things up as ex-hot shot pitcher turned Red Sox scout, who puts the competition aside to rub elbows (and lips) with Mickey. Timberlake’s energy is a firecracker compared to the droll mumblings from Eastwood, and he and Adams have wonderful on-screen chemistry.
Helmed by first time director Robert Lorenz (Lorenz has worked as assistant director on many of Eastwood’s films), “The Trouble with the Curve” is as predictable as they come, but by the film’s climax it’s hard not to get swept up in the emotion of the moment, rooting for your team to win the game. That commitment is mainly attributed to the tender emotional bond between Adams and Eastwood.