The story of a aged washed-up baseball scout and the shunned daughter turned brilliant lawyer who comes to his rescue is pure corn.
But first let’s celebrate Clint Eastwood’s amazing win streak up to this point.
As director, he racked up such impressive turn-of-the-century works as “J. Edgar,” “Hereafter” — I know it’s not a popular film with audiences or critics but I’m holding out for extra innings — “Invictus,” “Gran Torino,” “Changeling,” his masterpiece “Letter From Iwo Jima,” “Flags of Our Fathers” (also under-appreciated), the Oscar-winning best picture “Million Dollar Baby” and “Mystic River.”
Eastwood mostly stepped away from acting in these pictures but not always. The change-up here is that he chose to act but not direct, giving his buddy and long-time producing partner Robert Lorenz that credit.
Make no mistake, the film rolls out from his company Malpaso with Eastwood as exec producer and most of his behind-the-camera team in place. It’s an Eastwood picture.
Eastwood did his buddy no favors in selecting a screenplay by Randy Brown that’s semi-pro. Everything in the sentimental and manipulative writing spells things out for audiences. Every scene is on the money — meaning characters say exactly what they feel rather than let meanings flow through subtext.
Dad, I’ve spent years in therapy over your abandonment of me. Why did you do that? the daughter pleads.
That sort of thing.
You know that the high school “phenom” Bo Gentry (Joe Massingill) — whom every scout including Eastwood’s Gus Lobel is tracking — is going to be a prize flop. Oh, he hits nearly every pitch over the fence. But he’s a jerk to his teammates and even to a peanut vendor.
That sort of thing.
You’re in trouble right from the first scene. Eastwood as Gus can barely pee in the morning, collides into everything in his own house and destroys the garage merely by backing out his car.
Why, you wonder, doesn’t he arrange his household so he at least knows where the furniture is? Park his car on the street?
That sort of thing.
Yet somehow spending a few days in North Carolina helping out her dad at the suggestion of his Atlanta Braves boss (John Goodman) will put that partnership in jeopardy.
Everyone here has an Iago at his back. In Mickey’s case, it’s a jerk (James Patrick Freetley) competing with her for that partnership. In Gus’ case, it’s a front-office guy (Matthew Lillard) who’s angling to become GM by getting rid of useless old guys like Gus.
Meanwhile the Red Sox have sent their own scout, Justin Timberlake’s ex-ballplayer Johnny “the Flame” Flanagan, to see if it can snatch away this hot ballplayer. It’s no spoiler alert that the Flame becomes Mickey’s flame.
(For that matter, how can you spoil any suspense over the weakness Bo will eventually demonstrate? The film puts it into the title!)
Eastwood essentially reprises his “Gran Torino” crabby old man character, this time with degenerative eye disease. It’s a pretty lazy performance for him at this stage of the game.
He and Adams speak most of their dialogue with snarls until well past the midway point, which puts Timberlake in an odd spectator’s position.
Production values are OK but tend toward bright chirpy lighting and overly colorful honky-tonk saloons. Any reality of how baseball games go or what happens in law firm suites is rejected in favor of cartoonishness.
The ending is so absurd you can only shake your head. It all has to do with that poor peanut vendor who out of nowhere has a couple of wicked pitches.
“Trouble With the Curve” opts for feel-good fantasy at every step. Now if only the Dodgers had some of that.
Opens: Friday, Sept. 21, 2012 (Warner Bros.)
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, Robert Patrick, Matthew Lillard, Bob Gunton, George Wyner, Jack Gilpin, Ed Lauter, Chelcie Ross, Ray Anthony Thomas, Joe Massingill, James Patrick Freetly
Director: Robert Lorenz
Screenwriter: Randy Brown
Producers: Clint Eastwood, Robert Lorenz, Michele Weisler
Executive producer: Tim Moore
Director of photography: Tom Stern
Production designer: James J. Murakami
Music: Marco Beltrami
Costume designer: Deborah Hopper
Editors: Gary D. Roach, Joel Cox
PG-13 rating, 110 minutes