Review: “Trouble with the Curve”

John Goodman, Amy Adams, and Clint Eastwood star in "Trouble with the Curve"In “Trouble with the Curve,” Clint Eastwood and Amy Adams play father and daughter Gus and Mickey Lobel — cartoon character-esque names that were undoubtedly created by screenwriter Randy Brown under the presumption that if he were to pick plainer ones, the viewer would instantly forget them and think of the duo not as characters, but as Clint and Amy. That’s because Brown’s script relies entirely on the actors’ presences to make the material work; the narrative is predictable and the emotional arcs are textbook.

But, boy, do Eastwood and Adams ever make it work. After all the awards and critical notices they have each received for more artistically daring films, the actors’ performances in “Trouble with the Curve” are a good reminder of what raw charisma they both possess. These are bona fide movie stars, and frankly, if the viewer thinks of them as Clint and Amy–which is admittedly hard to do given Brown’s zanier selections–it is a testament to their work, not a distraction from it.

Brown’s script isn’t bad — it’s just ordinary and broad-brushed, if hard to fault for unoriginality when stacked up against the sequels and remakes currently sharing megaplex marquees. (The same could be said of Robert Lorenz’s workmanlike direction.) “Trouble with the Curve” is very much a studio concept in that each piece of the story was transparently selected to appease a specific demographic — baseball for older men, a teary-eyed father-daughter relationship for their wives, and a date-night-worthy romance for the younger couple sitting next to them.

Here’s the gist: Eastwood’s Gus is an aging scout for the Atlanta Braves whose poor eyesight poses a risk to his contract being renewed, especially with a Sabermetrics-savvy younger co-worker (Matthew Lillard) gunning to take over. Despite his curmudgeonly refusals, Gus must accept help on a crucial scouting trip from Adams’ Mickey, who learned quite a bit about baseball from her dad despite the long rocky nature of their relationship. Conveniently, a hunky Red Sox scout (Justin Timberlake) who develops a romantic interest in Mickey is also on the trip.

Eastwood essentially plays the same character that he did in 2008’s “Gran Torino,” despite Gus not sharing nearly the same pride for his classic car, which he drives recklessly and clearly hasn’t waxed in years. Certain cynics will complain about this, but the majority of viewers will hardly care, for the legend’s embellished depiction of a stubborn old man is spot-on; nearly everyone has a family member or a neighbor like him. Further, it’s nice to see Eastwood add a new persona to the list that includes The Man with No Name and Dirty Harry.

And what rapport Eastwood has with the glowing Adams, who establishes herself as the emotional anchor of the film by making a real woman out of a stock character and, in turn, bringing out the humanity in everyone who she interacts with. Together, the pair–and Timberlake, for that matter, again demonstrating that he is a real actor and not just a former pop-star with a well-connected agent–prove that an uninspired script doesn’t necessarily mean a rotten movie. Sure, “Trouble with the Curve” would have been better had screenwriter Brown taken a few chances, but there are far worse ways to spend a Friday night at the theater than in the company of Clint and Amy.