Strictly down the middle ‘Curve’
Updated: September 21, 2012 7:34AM
“Trouble with the Curve”
Straight down the middle with nothing especially tricky on the ball, “Trouble with the Curve” gets the job done, more or less, as a feel-good, baseball-themed romantic family drama and as late-innings vehicle for star Clint Eastwood.
It’s not a blazing fastball, by any means, but there’s also room in the game for a respectable bread-and-butter pitch that finds the strike zone.
In his directorial debut, longtime Eastwood first assistant-director and executive producer Robert Lorenz mainly underscores what a talented producer he is by doing nothing to keep “Trouble” from doing its job as a mainstream crowd-pleaser. Could it be a little snappier? Yes. A little less predictable? Yes. A little less of a heart-strings tugger? Yes. But this is one of those movies that was made to entertain the greatest possible number of people with the minimum amount of complication and Lorenz makes that happen. Just don’t expect your life to change.
Eastwood plays Gus Lobel, an aging old-school baseball scout who can tell a fastball from a curve by the sound it makes and “spot talent from an airplane” according to his old-buddy and boss Pete (John Goodman). Remember the hopelessly old-fashioned scouts in “Moneyball” who opposed Brad Pitt’s computer-generated recruitment program? Gus is one of those guys, back to get some respect. This time around, the guy with the computer (Matthew Lillard) is one of the film’s two villains, a treacherous yuppie who has no love for the game and no understanding of the human factor. And “Trouble with the Curve” is all about the human factor.
Such as: Gus is a cantankerous old cuss who’s done a good job keeping people at a distance most of his life, including his semi-estranged daughter Mickey (Amy Adams), now a hot-shot lawyer who’s in line for a partnership at her firm if she can win a big case. He’s accustomed to being alone and he lives for his work, but now, with his eyesight failing from glaucoma, he might need a little help for the first time in his life.
Enter Mickey (named for Mickey Mantle), who puts her big case on hold to accompany Gus on what may be his last scouting trip and to take one last shot at figuring out why he left her behind with a relative at an early age. Mickey has baseball in her blood just like Gus, of course, which makes it seem like fate may have taken a hand (or a screenwriter got lazy) when Johnny “The Flame” Flanagan (Justin Timberlake), a nice-guy former pitching sensation discovered by Gus, shows up as a young scout after blowing out his arm.
At this point, “Trouble with the Curve” spends equal time developing the budding romance between Mickey and Johnny and the long-postponed rapprochement between Mickey and Gus. At the same time, Gus’s evaluation of the obnoxious minor-league slugger and movie villain No. 2 (Joe Massingill), who has become a much sought-after first-round draft choice, is being tracked.
Will Gus’s instinct and experience help him make the right call, even when he can’t see? Will Mickey remember her love of baseball and give up her cold, corporate ambitions? Will Johnny find the way to her heart through her labyrinth of daddy issues?
That would be telling, of course, but this much seems fair to say: When life throws curves in movies like this, the good guys generally knock the ball out of the park.