Trouble with the Curve
Quality: ★★½ (out of four)
Stars: Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, John Goodman, Justin Timberlake
Director: Robert Lorenz
Rating: PG-13 for profanity, sexual references, thematic material, smoking
Running time: 1 hour, 51 minutes
Theaters: 20 Grand, Village Pointe, Aksarben, Westroads, Great Escape, Midtown, Bluffs 17, Twin Creek, Oak View
“Trouble With the Curve,” a movie about fathers and daughters and baseball scouting, stars Clint Eastwood playing a curmudgeon. Again. Just like he did in “Gran Torino” and “Million Dollar Baby” and “Space Cowboys.”
It boasts one of those tidy, mostly predictable scripts that stretch credibility time and again in an effort to please an audience.
But darned if it doesn't do just that: please its audience with a story of reconciliation, romance and opening up to emotional vulnerability.
There's also a respectful nod to the experience and wisdom of the elderly, even as the old guy in question happens to be stumbling badly.
That would be Eastwood's character, of course, pro baseball scout Gus. Macular degeneration is blurring the center of his field of vision. He can't see the ball cross home plate, just as the baseball draft is looming.
Worse, an ambitious computer wizard in the home office (Matthew Lillard, a satisfying villain to hate) is gunning for Gus' job, trashing his opinions on the latest hot prospect (shades of “Moneyball” in reverse).
Luckily, Gus' loyal boss (John Goodman) has his back and alerts Gus' estranged daughter, Mickey (Amy Adams), that something's not right with Gus.
Something's also not right between Gus and Mickey. Ever since her mother died when she was 6, she has felt a chasm between them, which explains in simplistic armchair-psychology fashion why she's a workaholic lawyer who doesn't trust men.
Nonetheless, she abandons a crucial case just as she's being considered for partnership and flies to North Carolina to be her father's eyes at the baseball field.
As usual, he pushes her away. A lot.
Eastwood and Adams are such appealing performers that you'll probably tolerate how familiar this story feels, even as it tugs at your emotional sleeve with increasing directness.
Also appealing: Justin Timberlake as a once-hot pitcher Gus scouted who blew out his arm and is now scouting for a rival team. Timberlake does fine flirting with Adams and cracking wise but is a little less convincing in the heavy-lifting moments.
Eastwood, too, has a hard time selling a couple of chin-quivering scenes in which he confronts long-buried feelings. Only Adams escapes sentimental manipulation without ever losing credibility.
Speaking of which, the ending is so unbelievable, both in terms of how professional baseball works and in how romance works too, I'm not sure anybody could have played that convincingly.
Nonetheless, “Trouble With the Curve” is, I'm pretty sure, a crowd-pleaser destined to play many a Saturday afternoon on cable television, giving fathers and daughters a satisfying fantasy of how gnarly problems both physical and emotional can all work themselves out at the ballpark.
It's a double play, just as you bite into your chili dog with extra onions.
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