The trouble with 'Trouble With the Curve'

Amy Adams and Clint Eastwood in Trouble with the Curve. (Handout)

Amy Adams and Clint Eastwood in Trouble with the Curve. (Handout)

Jim Slotek, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:56 AM ET

If Moneyball was made completely wrong, and written by someone who didn't know baseball, it just might have been Trouble With the Curve.

The movie -- the first Clint Eastwood film not actually directed by Eastwood since 1993's In the Line of Fire -- is sort of about one of those lovable old-school baseball scouts in Moneyball, the ones who scoffed at stats and assessed major league prospects by the sexiness of their wives.

Actually, Eastwood's Gus Lobel of the Atlanta Braves is not as crass as that.

Not that it matters. In the predictable Trouble With the Curve, baseball is merely a plot device for an overlong soap opera about a daughter (Amy Adams) starved for attention from her father (and for a truncated romantic-comedy subplot with Justin Timberlake).

When we met Gus, he's scouting alongside his cronies, and getting grumpier as he realizes his eyes are failing. Eventually, he's in traffic accidents and cluelessly burning meat on his stove. Those are recognized behavioural clues in an older gent (we're never told Gus's age, but Clint is 82).

So it is that big city lawyer Mickey (Adams), Gus's estranged daughter, gets a call from the Braves' concerned head of scouting (John Goodman) to see to her dad. Initially reluctant, she agrees to join him on a last-chance scouting trip of baseball's top draft prospect, an egotistical moose named Bo Gentry (Joe Massingill).

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Back in Atlanta, and hoping Gus fails, is the villain -- an arrogant young number-cruncher (Matthew Lillard) who might as well have a Snideley Whiplash moustache and who thinks the best way to rate talent is to collate numbers on a computer. Meanwhile, half blind, Gus can tell a curve by the sound it makes off a bat.

Again, none of this matters. Trouble With the Curve has as much to do with baseball as the Justin Trudeau/Patrick Brazeau match had to do with boxing. Put it this way: where but in an addlebrained Hollywood movie would you find potential major league prospects tossing peanuts in the stands?

Helping pad this slight, remarkably slow story to nearly two hours is Johnny Flanagan (Timberlake), an ex-pitcher who now is on the ground floor scouting for the Red Sox.

Johnny and Mickey's love story involves a lot of whisky shots in a stereotypically wood-panelled country bar and a clog dance. There are crossed wires, accusations of betrayal and a resolution to the relationship (and indeed the entire story) that are so improbable, I wanted to throw high heat at the screen.

Timberlake tries to charm with no script support. Adams and Eastwood gamely spar and are reasonably successful some of the time.

And for his first time out, director Lorenz clearly channelled a lot of old movies. Too bad he didn't channel any good ones.

jim.slotek@sunmedia.ca


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