Trouble with the Curve
Not Quite the Anti-Moneyball

Bringing him out of acting retirement, Trouble with the Curve is the first movie that Clint Eastwood has acted in, but not directed, since 1993’s In the Line of Fire.  Instead, the movie is directed by first-timer Robert Lorenz, Eastwood’s longtime assistant director.  Assuming the pupil has been paying attention to his mentor all those years, Trouble with the Curve has the potential to be this year’s anti-Moneyball.

Eastwood stars as Gus, a legendary baseball scout for the Atlanta Braves who is getting a little long in the tooth.  With the team’s general manager considering a conversion to the computer-friendly Moneyball system, Gus is given one more chance to prove his usefulness by going to North Carolina to scout a top prospect.  Unfortunately, Gus’ eyesight is failing him, making scouting the kid a challenge.

Enter Mickey, Gus’ daughter.  Mickey is a rising young attorney at a prestigious law firm working on the case that could earn her a partnership, but that all comes into jeopardy when she decides she needs to be by her father’s side.   The trip also brings up some long buried issues between the two, with Mickey seeking answers as to why her father abandoned her after her mother’s death when she was only six.  Providing her with a distraction is a former ballplayer who is also scouting the prospect for the Boston Red Sox.

Lorenz directs Eastwood in Trouble with the CurveFirst of all, it seems kind of farfetched to imagine the top two picks in the Major League Baseball draft belonging to the Red Sox and Braves, given that those two teams have been pretty successful over the past decade.  I guess that’s still the sexier option as compared to, say, the Royals and the Astros.

That’s not the only question that arises from Brown’s script, which introduces multiple ideas, but fails to pursue any of them full-heartedly.  The movie’s biggest failure may be its lack of true conviction when promoting in-person scouting over computerized scouting.  Now, the filmmakers’ top priority may not have been to make an anti-Moneyball, but whether they wanted to or not, they had the perfect opportunity to show the other side of the story.  The movie goes out of its way to point out the brash, self-important personality of the prospect Gus is scouting, but not one word is mentioned by either Gus, Mickey, or any of the other scouts as to whether the kid has the mental makeup to succeed in the Majors.  In fact, the rest of the veteran scouts in the stands seem to be there only to offer a minimal amount of comic relief.

There are a number of different plot threads woven into the story.  There’s the computer vs. human debate, the father/daughter backstory, Gus’ failing eyesight, and even a possible romantic relationship between Mickey and the former ballplayer.   Unfortunately, Lorenz and Brown can’t seem to navigate a clear path, leaving the movie to stumble all over itself just like Gus in his living room.  All this eventually leads to a happy ending that feels incredibly forced and downright unauthentic.

The romantic entanglement between Mickey and the former ballplayer could have been one of the movie’s more interesting plot threads, thanks to the great chemistry between Amy Adams and Justin Timberlake.  Unfortunately, the script only guides them through a minefield of clichés, none more obvious than the let’s-strip-off-all-our-clothes-and-jump-into-this-lake moment.

Clint, meanwhile, is Clint.  He may not move as well as he used to, but don’t tell him that because he can still tell you to “get off my lawn” without even uttering a syllable.  He can also deliver a witty one-liner as good as anybody.  Clint doesn’t necessarily get the credit he deserves for his sense of humor, but he provides some good laughs throughout the movie.

Trouble with the Curve never seems to get it going, but is still moderately enjoyable, thanks in large part to its likeable actors.  In the end, though, it just felt a little too disorganized, leading to a tacked-on ending while leaving too many story possibilities on the table.

Trouble with the Curve is rated PG-13 for “language, sexual references, some thematic material, and smoking.”  All of that is definitely present, but not to any extreme.  It seems the movie could have possibly gotten away with a PG.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of Trouble with the Curve.