There have been well over a hundred baseball movies about players, coaches and teams. One crucial figure that’s starting to get more recognition in this genre is the baseball scout. Last year’s “Moneyball” from Director Bennett Miller was easily the definitive baseball-scouting picture, telling the thought-provoking true story of Oakland Athletics’ general manager Bill Beane. “Trouble with the Curve” is a more predictable, crowd-pleasing effort that doesn’t rank in the major leagues with “Moneyball.” Despite all of its clichés though, this is an enjoyable film carried by some memorable performances from the leads.
Clint Eastwood is in his comfort zone as the grouchy, growling Gus Lobel, a senior baseball scout for the Atlanta Braves. Although Gus still has the aptitude to single out diamonds in the rough, his contract is almost up and his health is deteriorating. John Goodman plays Pete, Gus’ boss and best friend, who notices that the old man may be losing his eyesight. Concerned that he may not be able to handle a scouting trip to North Carolina, it is decided that Mickey, Gus’ daughter played by Amy Adams, will accompany her dad. Mickey, who of course is named after Mickey Mantle, is a successful lawyer on the verge of making partner at her firm. Although she might have actually made a better baseball scout or agent based on her knowledge of the game.
From “Million Dollar Baby” to “Gran Torino,” Eastwood is agreeably starting to get typecast as a distant old man with aggressive tendencies. Nevertheless, nobody plays this kind of character better than Eastwood, making him the perfect fit for the role of Gus. Amy Adams can be seen in two movies opening this week with this film and “The Master.” She’s great here as the headstrong and no nonsense Mickey who loves her father despite his many faults. The chemistry between Eastwood and Adams feels just right as the feuding daddy and daughter are reunited via their shared love for baseball. Another strong dynamic is between Mickey and Johnny Flanagan, a hunky former athlete turned scout played by the charming Justin Timberlake. Despite all the preconceptions people had about Timberlake’s crossover from music to film, I think we can officially distinguish him a serious movie star worthy of his success.
While the heroes shine, the same cannot be said about the one-dimensional antagonists. The film is overstuffed with several lazily written villains, including a conceited high school bully, a fellow scout keen on getting Gus fired and several lawyers reluctant to give Mickey her deserved promotion. Would it have killed Director Robert Lorenz or Screenwriter Randy Brown to permit these characters a shred of humanity or redeeming values? At the very least the filmmakers could have made the villains funny and charismatic. Instead, they’re just uninteresting and unpleasant to observe.
If you can watch the film without cringing at the conventional storytelling and smug bad guys, you’re inclined to appreciate “Trouble with the Curve” for the areas it does prevail in. The comparison between “Trouble with the Curve” and “Moneyball” can additionally lead to an interesting debate about baseball scouting. In “Moneyball,” Billy Beane uses a new computer-generated approach to devise a perfect team. Gus on the other hand, asserts that instinct is still the best fashion to pick out players even in an era of advanced technology. Not being a baseball guru, I cannot say which approach is more effective in the scouting profession. Based on how things worked out for Billy Beane though, I’ll take Gus’ word.
Nick Spake is a college student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for the past seven years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org