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Zimbio Review - The Trouble with 'Trouble with the Curve'

(Getty Images | Warner Brothers)
The Bottom Line
Should you see it?

Despite a likable cast, the film is weakened by a low baseball IQ and a trade of actual cinematic depth for easy resolution.
While it's nice to think the old guard of pro scouting still has some place in today's modern game, the notion is antiquated. Watching Clint Eastwood laud the veracity of old time scouting while trampling the evolution of it, and then building a plot around that perspective, is a nice little fantasy, but a false one. Trouble with the Curve is a harmless and well-intentioned film with solid performances, but the story will likely turn off baseball fans who require authenticity in their depiction of the game.

It's tough disagreeing with a film like this because of the talent of everyone involved. The legendary Eastwood is so riveting as an actor, he can almost do no wrong. Seeing him in a scene with John Goodman is cinema bliss, but not even the charisma of its great star can save this contrived story.

Eastwood plays Gus Lobel, an aged scout for the Atlanta Braves who's going blind and becoming so ornery, even his daughter, Mickey (Amy Adams) can barely stand him anymore. Gus "may be ready for pasture," due to the emergence of a new stat-saavy assistant GM (Matthew Lillard) who thinks old time scouting is obsolete. With the draft coming up, Gus is sent on one last scouting trip to check out a blue chip prospect in South Carolina. Mickey, named after Mickey Mantle, feels an uncomfortable responsibility to her father and decides to accompany him.

Mickey is a tough girl. She knows baseball from growing up around the game, but is now a corporate lawyer in line for a partnership. She puts work on hold, however, to make sure Dad is okay on his trip. His health and his stubborness worry her, and even though she doesn't want to, she travels to meet him.

Trouble with the Curve takes an unnecessary detour, introducing a too charming Justin Timberlake as a younger scout who develops a thing for Adams. He's introduced in a groan-worthy scene where he color commentates a game between kids playing by the side of the road. The character, Johnny, isn't well-written enough for Timberlake to do much with and the film suffers for it.

Adams' character, on the other hand, is true blue. Most of us can identify with her, especially those of us with aging parents who can't admit they're a shadow of their former selves. This aspect of Trouble is everyman stuff, and the kind of thing great films accentuate. Unfortunately, the movie handles this dynamic with zero depth. Resorting to melodrama instead of actual analysis, Trouble keeps things lighthearted and easy instead of profound.

Eastwood plays the same rough and tumble old fart we've seen from him since Million Dollar Baby. Within the right context, this character can be intimidating and often hilarious (as he showed in Gran Torino). In Trouble with the Curve, the act wears a little thin. Gus is a simple guy. He eats Spam out of the fridge and hangs out with the same scout buddies he has for years. Eastwood fans will love the performance undoubtedly, but we've seen it before.

The baseball scenes need major help. The blue chipper, Bo Gentry (Joe Massingill), is supposed to be a five tool prospect (can run, throw, field, hit, and hit for power), but he looks like Francis from Pee Wee's Big Adventure. Aside from Timberlake, the scouts are all dinosaurs, not just Eastwood. Real baseball scouts are largely ex-players, younger, and able to travel non-stop attending games all over the country. They're not AARP members. There's a lot to nitpick as a baseball fan and suspension of disbelief shouldn't be forgotten in Hollywood sports films, but when Adams' character crushes a baseball in a scene with Dad and discovers the next Sandy Koufax raking leaves at a hotel, the movie lost me.

Robert Lorenz, Eastwood's longtime producer, directs this time around and exhibits a solid sense for narrative and pacing. Trouble with the Curve also shows off some gorgeous scenic shots of the south and of the game, important to its pastoral nature. But, he's made a soft film about family dynamics and a softer one about baseball.

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